On June 6th, the House voted 224 to 201 to defund the infant Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, announced by President Obama on June 15, 2012. On a mostly party-line vote, 220 House Republicans supported the amendment introduced by Representative Steve King (R‑IA) that would deport DREAMers, young people who grew up in America, for the actions of their parents.
It is important to know that the vote does not currently affect anyone who has applied or will apply for the Deferred Action program, or who has been approved and is therefore “DACAmented.” Almost 500,000 young people have applied to the program as of May 8th, and 290,000 have received authorization to work legally in the United States.
The Senate should not approve of this blatant attack on the program that has helped so many, and thankfully President Obama has already threatened to veto any bill that contains the offensive amendment. In his weekly address, President Obama said that the House-passed measure would affect “DREAMers” who are “productive members of society who were brought here as young children, grew up in our communities, and became American in every way but on paper.” This bill is not now law, and likely won’t become law.
As immigration lawyers, we know numerous clients whose lives have been changed for the better by DACA. It is up to us to ensure that the backlash against House members for this vote will have many who voted “yea” reconsidering when immigration reform comes up for a vote this summer.
The DREAMers were a powerful force before DACA, but now they have everything to lose: their work cards, their driver’s licenses, and their future. They no longer have to fear deportation for speaking out. These brave DREAMers have already come out of the shadows, advocated for their cause in schools and social media, and changed society’s views of the face of “illegal aliens.” United We Dream and other DREAM activists are organizing call campaigns, social media blasts, and media events to shame those who voted for this amendment. AILA attorneys need to join these efforts, and put pressure on both the House and Senate to pass good immigration reform now.
Another powerful effort to raise awareness of the DREAMers’ plight is a documentary called The Dream is Now. This film is part of a campaign launched by Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow, and directed by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Waiting for Superman”). The movie provides a compelling and heartbreaking insight into the lives of several DREAMers who want to join the Marines, become a doctor or an engineer, and change the world. The interactive portion of the documentary invites DREAMers to take action by writing their own story, uploading photos, and signing a petition on the organization’s website. Share this link on Facebook, twitter, and in emails to your DACA clients and their families. And tell your clients, their family, and friends to do the same.
Latinos are the fastest growing group of registered voters, representing 10% of the electorate in 2012. After Latinos voted 71% for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012, Republican strategists sought to find ways to attract this group to the Grand Old Party. The House, however, has already abandoned this strategy to appeal to “a dwindling base of anti-immigrant Republican primary voters,” according to Ana Avendano of the AFL-CIO. She also called the amendment “not only abhorrent policy but suicidal politics.”
I encourage every AILA member to call or write your Congressional member (especially those who voted for this amendment), and tell them a story of a DACA applicant and DREAMer. Have your DACAmented clients call or write to Congress. Have the friends and family of your DACA clients call Congress. Then organize a watching party for The Dream is Now documentary (but bring plenty of tissues – it is a tear jerker).
Together, we CAN make a difference in the lives of over 1.4 million DREAMers, as well as their parents and family members, by urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The time is now. Si se puede!
Written by Karol Brown, Member, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee