SFS On-Topic: DACA and DREAM Act

DACA Supporters Outside White House

Crowds gathered outside the White House to protest the announcement that President Donald Trump would end the DACA program. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Trump administration announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy (DACA), an executive order signed by President Obama in June 2012. Over the past five years, nearly 800,000 DACA applications have been accepted, granting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors, often called “Dreamers,” a renewable two-year work permit and deferred deportation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement on September 5, 2017, to officially end the program. He called on the United States Congress to create legislation that would take DACA’s place, protecting Dreamers and other young children brought to the United States without documentation. The administration also introduced a six-month grace period for Dreamers to renew permits that expire before March, giving Congress time to create any new legislation.

Responses to the Announcement

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who graduated from the SFS in 1966, is an outspoken supporter of DACA in Congress. He released a statement on the termination of the policy, calling on Congress to work together to prevent the deportation of young people affected by the DACA announcement.

DACA Protestors (Rudy Gutierrez/El Paso Times)

(Rudy Gutierrez/El Paso Times)

“Starting this countdown clock will require Congress to act fast to stop rolling mass deportations of hundreds of thousands of young people–students, teachers, doctors, engineers, first responders, service-members, and more. Families will be torn apart and America will lose many of our best and brightest unless Republicans join with Democrats to right this wrong immediately.” Click here to read Senator Durbin’s full statement on the termination of DACA.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (SFS’75) represents Michigan’s 12th District. She also released a statement in advance of the formal announcement ending DACA.

“These young people were brought here through no fault of their own. America is their home and DACA has allowed them to become hardworking, contributing members of our society – offering their talents to the workforce and paying taxes that go toward improving our health care, infrastructure and other critical services. Regardless of whether they earn a college degree, work on a farm or in a restaurant, or are raising a family, they deserve the opportunity to apply for permanent resident status, and ultimately citizenship, and not be ripped from their families and the lives they know.”

“In light of these reports, Congress must come together with businesses, universities, and lawmakers of both parties to protect these individuals. This is not only the right thing for these young people, but for our country and our economic competitiveness – now and in the future.”

Replacing DACA With the DREAM Act

One of the pieces of legislation that has the potential to replace DACA is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2017, which was introduced in its newest iteration earlier this year by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), SFS’66.

DACA Protestors (New York Times)

(Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

Durbin and Graham held a joint press conference on September 5 to discuss the future of the current version of the DREAM Act, imbued with a sense of urgency as questions on the future of DACA beneficiaries mount.

“We’re not going to allow these kids to be victims of a broken political process,” Graham said.

Durbin pressed for action from Congress.

“Who knows what next month’s topic du jour is going to be?” he said. “Let’s move and do it now.”

A video of the full press conference, with text excerpts, can be found here.

Katharine Donato, the Donald G. Herzberg Professor of International Migration and Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), wrote on the ISIM blog discussing the future of DACA and policies that may protect former DACA recipients.

U.S.-Mexico Border (CNN

(CNN)

“Millions of people and many organizations have called for DACA to continue and be expanded. Some are also behind the Dream Act, introduced in Congress earlier this year. With bipartisan support, the Dream Act offers a path to U.S. citizenship for those who are undocumented, have DACA or Temporary Protected Status, and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in the military. Those supporting this bill argue that while DACA has offered protection and removed obstacles to insure that those who are eligible have a better future than they would have had without it, DACA does not include a path toward lawful permanent residence. The Dream Act will do just that, and I hope that Congress passes it if DACA is ended.” Read Professor Donato’s full blog post on the future of DACA here.

Congresswoman Dingell also tweeted her support for the DREAM Act:

Other SFS alumni in Congress representing constituencies across the country weighed in on the DACA/DREAM issue.

Congressman Henry Cuellar (SFS’78, D-Texas) issued a statement condemning the end of DACA and calling for Congressional action.

“I will continue to fight to keep families together and to keep our American values strong while opposing the building of walls,” he said. “We need a bipartisan comprehensive immigration approach to solve the challenges at our border and ensure that DREAMers have a place in the nation that they love.” Congressman Cuellar’s full statement can be found here.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (MSFS’04, D-Florida) echoed those sentiments in her own statement.

“As an immigrant, I fiercely believe that Dreamers have become an integral part of the fabric of American society,” she said. “As a former national security specialist, I know that this decision does absolutely nothing to make Americans safer.” Click here for Congresswoman Murphy’s full statement.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (MSFS’93, R-Alaska) provided his thoughts on Facebook, expressing concern on the constitutionality of DACA while also voicing concern for those protected by DACA:

U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher (SSP’12, R-Wisconsin) has not yet made a public comment on DACA and the DREAM Act.