The good and bad news is that in our country executive power is fleeting. Presidents can issue executive orders that become law, but the following president can just as easily undo those orders. On Tuesday September 5th, 45 did just that, terminating, with a six-month delay, President Obama’s executive order that allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the States to study or work (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA). Now the fate of 800,000 people contributing positively to our communities and our economy has fallen into Congress’s hands. We must demand that Congress pass legislation to protect these Dreamers, and quickly, so that hundreds of thousands of young people are not forced to leave the only home they can remember.
What You Need to Know:
- For the first three years of his first term, President Obama worked with Congress to pass the Dream Act, a more permanent bill to protect children of immigrants, but this bill ultimately did not pass.
- On June 15th, 2012, Obama took an executive action to establish a program to protect young people brought illegally to the United States when they were children. The DACA program meant that those who qualified were not at risk of deportation and could apply for a permit to work legally in the States for two years. DACA permits were temporary—every two years they had to be renewed—-but it was the closest to legal status that around 800,000 people in this country had ever had. For more information about DACA, watch this short video.
- Critics, including then-Senator (and now-Attorney General) Jeff Sessions, argued that this executive order essentially circumvented the law and was unconstitutional. Renowned constitutional scholars from universities and law schools across the country, however, have since said otherwise.
- Meanwhile, Obama felt that DACA did not accomplish his real goal: to give these young people the permanent status that the Dream Act would provide. He noted, “These kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments.”
- On Tuesday, September 5th, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded DACA, arguing that the order was inconsistent with the separation of powers promised by the Constitution. Although Sessions made the public announcement, it was 45 who made the decision to end the DACA program—Trump did not, however, want to be the face of its demise.
- Essentially, Trump has tossed the grenade into Congress’s lap—if they do not act within six months, 800,000 people will be considered to be in this country illegally by next October.
- Those whose DACA permits expire within the next six months can still apply for one more two-year renewal, but they must do so before October 5th. Those whose permits expire over six months from now will not be able to renew.
- The young people participating in DACA are now in greater danger of deportation than before they ever even applied to DACA—the program has, ultimately, punished them.
- The Dream Act (S. 1615 (Senate) / H.R. 3440 (House)) would…(from the National Immigration Law Center)
- Grant current DACA beneficiaries permanent resident status on a conditional basis.
- Allow temporary protected status (TPS) beneficiaries, people without lawful immigration status, and people with final orders of removal the opportunity to apply for permanent resident status on a conditional basis.
- Permit conditional permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (sometimes referred to as getting a “green card”) if they go to college, have worked for a certain amount of time, or served in the U.S. military. They also would have to meet other requirements.
- Provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship. A person would have to be in conditional permanent resident (CPR) status for 8 years before they could become eligible to apply for LPR status, and after a certain period as an LPR (probably five years), they could apply for U.S. citizenship.
- Stay the removal proceedings of anyone who meets the Dream Act requirements and young people over 5 years of age who are enrolled in elementary or secondary school.
- Improve college affordability for undocumented youth and other immigrants by changing rules that limit their access to in-state tuition and college loans.
1) Ask your members of Congress to support the Dream Act
- Call: Your three members of Congress (look up).
- Script (from Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience Action Checklist): Hi. I am from [ZIP] calling to ask [name] to support the bipartisan Dream Act that gives permanent legal status to DACA recipients. Is [name] committed to supporting S. 1615 (Senate) / H.R. 3440 (House)? Will s/he co-sponsor it?
- Additional Talking Points (from The Loyal Opposition):
- The Dreamers (those protected under DACA) arrived in the US through no fault of their own and have been raised as Americans.
- The Dreamers contribute to American society in jobs, the military, and education.
- Studies show deportation of the Dreamers would have devastating economic impacts on the US.
- Breaking faith with the Dreamers or holding them hostage to funding for a useless border wall would be cruel and un-American.
“Every member of Congress should act swiftly to pass a clean, stand-alone DREAM Act. Inaction or opposition from members of Congress is unacceptable and will be viewed as support for Trump’s cruel ending of DACA. And any bill that uses immigrant young people as bargaining chips—by protecting immigrant youth from deportation in exchange for putting more deportation agents on the streets to round up their parents, friends, family members, and to terrorize immigrant communities, or holding this program ransom in return for funding the wasteful border wall—is a non-starter, and Congress must reject those bills.”