Understanding the Construction of DACA

Understanding the Construction of DACA

Mahle Gangi, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, The Trump administration made a formal announcement that it would be discontinuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA for short), which would affect roughly 800,000 people known as “DREAMers”, who entered the country illegally as children, by putting an expiration date on their time in the United States. But what does that mean? And what’s the history behind it all?

In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform Act with hope of starting over when it came to handling illegal immigration. At the time, the United States held approximately 3 million illegal aliens and as part of Reagan’s legislation, amnesty was granted to them. The deal was: If they registered for payback taxes, there was a path to citizenship. Hand in hand with that, border patrol was supposed to increase and security was supposed to tighten, along with something that later became the e-verify system that forbade workers from being hired by businesses if they were not legal aliens with the required working papers. That part of the legislation failed and it also failed to deal with the problem of not bringing people with temporary green cards to fill the economic vacuum. This Act’s failures allowed millions more people to come to the U.S. for work opportunities, which meant that by the end of the 20th century, more the 11 million aliens lived and worked inside the U.S. This meant that as more aliens kept coming to the states for work, they were bringing their children, and Congress began to attempt to deal with this in 2001. Congress decided that they didn’t have enough votes to do any drastic immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, but they did believe they had enough to do something to help these children who were brought in under the age of 16 by their parents’ accord and the United States was the only country they knew.

In 2001, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Orin Hatch decided they were going to cosponsor legislation called the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM. This piece of legislation did not make it through, but there were numerous attempts to pass it which climbed so that in 2010, under John McCain, when the bill passed in the House, but got 56 votes in the Senate (which isn’t enough, they needed 60 to override a Republican filibuster), it is thought by many that Obama decided he would act since Congress would not. Something needed to be done. Thanks to Plyer v Doe (a Supreme Court Case in 1982) these alien children were allowed to go to public school, but that wasn’t enough. About 65,000 illegal immigrant students graduate from public high schools every year. It was time for these children come out of the shadows, because not only was hiding damaging to them, but to the community as a whole. For example, if you’re illegal, you’re much less likely to report issues to the police or pursue an education after high school, which prevents them from being part of the United States economic engine.

Thus, DACA was born. On June 15, 2012, the 30 year anniversary of Plyer v. Doe,  Obama announced this new program and, without speaking with Congress, used his power to sign it into action as an executive order.  Ths legislation Obama had crafted ordered the Homeland Security director,  Janet Napolitano, to order her agencies (ICE, border control) to do enforcement discretion. Enforcement discretion means that they can’t change the law, but they can choose who they’re going to target. Then Obama outlined a procedure that allowed children who qualified for DACA to come out of the shadows and go to school. These children are unable to apply for federal aid, but in many states they are eligible for in-state tuition. Along with this, some states allow for these children to get their driver’s licence. This allows these children to live a relatively normal life.

However, DACA has lots of qualifications, such as the $495 filing fee, having to provide numerous pieces of identification, having to be enrolled in school, employed, or honorably discharged from the military, and you can’t have a felony or more than three misdemeanors. This will register you with the government and in a sense bring you out of the shadows. You will be paying taxes, but this will not be a pathway to citizenship. This will last for two years, and then the dreamers will have to reapply. The whole idea of this was supposed to ensure that those who were presented this opportunity were aliens who exhibited good behavior. Today, about a million and a half have applied and renewed their applications to stay in the U.S. and that is what DACA is. Obama was only hoping for this to be a temporary solution and that Congress would see what he was doing and craft a formal piece of legislation to deal with this issue. There are many different ideas for this formal piece of legislation and most of them involve a pathway to citizenship for these DREAMers, unless you’re really extreme and want to throw out 11 million people. However, due to issues within Congress, they decided they still would not touch DACA or immigration. So, in 2014, Obama expanded DACA by about 300,000 people, he moved the year back that you needed to be born in to be eligible, and he introduced DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability). DAPA, simply put, dealt with the parents of children who were born in the United States and were citizens. These parents were living in fear of being deported all while their American children were living their lives, going to school, etc. Basically, DAPA would bring up the number of illegal aliens protected by deferred action to about 45% of that 11 million. After this, there were many State Attorney Generals who were angry and were pointing to the Constitution, and sued to have this stopped. It went to the Supreme Court and was deadlocked because of a failure to fill Atony Gregorio Scalia’s (a Supreme Court Justice who died) spot and it ended up being frozen so that the DREAMers still existed until Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

Trump has promised to keep the program running for 6 months to allow Congress time to act.