DACA: The Divide Over Immigration
Updated: Jan 12
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ― otherwise known as DACA ― gives the children of illegal immigrants a temporary reprieve from the risk of deportation. Started under the Obama administration, the DACA program grants two-year protection from deportation for hundreds of thousands of children of illegal immigrants. Under the Trump administration, however, the fate of DACA and its recipients remains uncertain. DACA is at the forefront of this past decade’s debate and divides over the issue of immigration; it’s been a controversial issue for a long time. As we enter a new decade, where does DACA stand?
DACA does not grant citizenship or legal residency, but for two years, it gives its recipients protection from deportation and the ability to acquire a work permit. As of now, it can be renewed indefinitely. Since 2012, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants have been able to work legally under the protection of DACA.
The eligible recipients of DACA are called DREAMers: a name taken from the DREAM Act, an earlier piece of legislation that was never passed. The DREAM Act was meant to provide a pathway through which the children of illegal immigrants could eventually gain U.S. citizenship. The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 but never made it past Congress.
DACA was created by President Obama in 2012, a compromised version of the DREAM Act that did not hope to provide U.S. citizenship or permanent legal residence, but rather, temporary protection from deportation and the ability to work legally. On June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it would not deport certain illegal immigrants that had come to the U.S. as children. Candidates for DACA must be of a certain age, residency, education, and criminal record requirements before being granted protection, but it’s estimated that roughly 1.3 million people were eligible as of the start of 2018.
In 2014, Obama sought to expand the DACA program as well as create a related program for the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, could have protected 5.2 million parents from deportation. However, in 2015, both of these efforts were stunted by several state lawsuits, a federal judge’s injunction, and a Supreme Court deadlock. Thus, DACA was not expanded and DAPA was ended.
Furthermore, although the fate of DACA remains precarious, in 2017, the Trump administration announced that DACA would be terminated. Though Congress attempted to pass several compromise bills on immigration, Trump rejected all of them. Those who were covered by DACA at the time would have lost protection and their work permits in March of 2018.
So why hasn’t DACA ended yet?
Several lawsuits have been filed against the Trump administration’s announcement to end DACA. And in 2018, a California federal judge’s injunction determined that the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was unlawful, allowing the renewal of DACA for those who are current or past recipients. Judges in New York and DC followed with their own injunctions. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is accepting renewals of DACA, though first-time applications are not eligible. Those who previously had DACA or currently are protected are able to renew their status as of now.
The California, New York, and DC cases have been consolidated by the Supreme Court after the Trump administration appealed the injunctions. The Supreme Court announced that it would rule on whether the termination of DACA was unlawful or not; a decision isn’t expected until at least the spring of 2020. While DACA-related lawsuits and cases are still in the legal system, renewals will continue to be accepted by the USCIS.
While the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate DACA seem likely to come to fruition, the program strikes at one of the greatest partisan divides. The illegal immigration issue has spanned many bills, programs, presidential terms, and years. As the future of DACA remains doubtful, the fate of immigration is also yet to be certain.