Protesters rally in Manhattan on Sept. 9 against the Trump administration’s decision to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation. (AP/William Mathis)
A month ago, President Donald Trump declared he is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, instituted by President Barack Obama in 2012 after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The DACA program allowed some individuals who came to the U.S. illegally as minors to stay in the country for two years, and apply for a work permit. To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the United States before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enacted the policy in 2012.
After those two years were up, the DACA recipients, or “Dreamers,” were able to renew their status. In order to apply for DACA, young undocumented people had to formally submit immigration violations and identifying information to the DHS. At the time of their application, the government vowed not to use the information to target applicants for deportation.
DACA recipients have been able to come out of the shadows and obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs. They also pay income taxes. The program didn’t give them a path to become U.S. citizens or even legal permanent residents. Among the accepted applicants’ countries of origin, Mexico is by far the greatest contributor, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The program’s rules changed abruptly Sept. 5 when the Trump administration announced it would terminate DACA, effective March 5, 2018. Since then, no one has been able to apply for new protections under DACA. The administration allowed the DACA recipients with authorizations due to expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, just four weeks — until Oct. 5 — to apply for renewals. Those with expiration dates after March 5 would not be permitted to apply for extensions, and their status will therefore expire on the date indicated on their DACA documents.
Approximately 690,000 people currently have DACA protections, with varying dates of expiration. Roughly 154,000 had until Oct. 5 to renew their documents. According to the DHS, as of late Wednesday, Oct. 4, about 112,000 young undocumented immigrants — about 72 percent of those eligible — had applied to renew their work permits ahead of Thursday’s deadline, but federal officials said they did not know the status of the remaining 42,000 eligible DACA recipients who had yet to file. The federal government did not extend the deadline to accommodate immigrants in Texas and Florida, who may have had difficulty gathering the necessary paperwork — and a hefty $495 fee — in light of recent hurricanes. Filings from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are being handled on a case-by-case basis.
Then just this weekend, in his letter to Congress, Trump said any further relief would be tied to a complete overhaul of our immigration policy. In specific, he demanded the following:
“Fund and complete construction of the southern border wall;
Ensure the safe and expeditious return of Unaccompanied Alien Children and family units;
End abuse of our asylum system by tightening standards, imposing penalties for fraud, and ensuring detention while claims are verified;
Remove illegal border crossers quickly by hiring an additional 370 immigration judges and 1,000 ICE attorneys;
Stop ‘sanctuary cities’;
Strengthen law enforcement by hiring 10,000 more ICE officers and 300 federal prosecutors;
End Visa overstays by establishing reforms to ensure their swift removal;
Protect U.S. workers by requiring E-Verify and strengthening laws to stop employment discrimination against U.S. workers;
End extended-family chain migration by limiting family-based green cards to include spouses and minor children; and
Establish a points-based system for green cards to protect U.S. workers and taxpayers.”
We recently applauded the 16 attorneys general, including Connecticut’s George Jepsen, who last month sued Trump after he ordered the DACA program to be phased out and gave Congress six months to fix it. They argued that Trump’s action on DACA is discriminatory and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Now Trump has upped the ante by linking any relief to a list of demands that would never otherwise be adopted wholesale. As Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, vice chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said, “Congress should reject this warped, anti-immigrant policy wish list. The White House wants to use dreamers as bargaining chips to achieve the administration’s deportation and detention goals.”
About 10,000 youth in Connecticut are eligible for DACA protections. It’s not clear how many who were eligible renewed their DACA status on time. Like many of the Dreamers nationally, we assume that the youth here under DACA protections have also become doctors, lawyers, IT specialists, teachers, soldiers, and serve in scores of other capacities helping to make Connecticut a better place to live. So not only is what Dreamers are experiencing inhumane, we as members of this society are not getting the benefit of our bargain or return on our investment. So not only are we mean, but we’re stupid as well.