As the debate around the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative continues, here’s the truth the Trump administration has tried to sidestep: many DACA applicants have already been losing DACA benefits, even before the administration’s March 2018 deadline. In fact, an average of 122 DACA recipients have been losing their work authorization on a daily basis.
Since the administration terminated the DACA program in September 2017, Congress has done little. Sure, there has been lots of talk on the Hill, but nothing actionable has been done that gives DACA applicants any sense of security.
And while many DACA recipients were able to request renewals during the brief 30-day window allowed by the administration last September-October, others were unable to file extensions. Some lacked the economic resources needed, while others were petrified that giving the government more of their private information would lead to future enforcement against them.
So now DACA recipients are stuck in this horrifying limbo while Congress has a political debate. But the truth is that DACA recipients are hardworking, determined young men and women. Since being granted DACA, some have earned advanced degrees, others are in college, and still others have moved up the ranks in their respective fields of employment. Lawyers, doctors and other professionals have been able to obtain professional licenses to practice in their respective fields of studies. DACA recipients are paying federal and state income taxes and many have purchased new automobiles or even their first homes.
The common vein that runs through most, if not all, DACA recipients is one that mirrors the great desire to contribute and excel in this great nation of opportunity they and we call home.
Let me introduce you to two DACA holders I have worked with:
A young woman, age 22, who is currently in her last year of college. She is majoring in aerospace engineering and will graduate in June. Her work permit is due to expire one month after graduation. She has been working toward her dream of one day working for NASA, but unless legislation like the Dream Act passes, her future is bleak.
Another young man, age 26, went back to college after obtaining his work authorization through DACA. He advanced in his employment and was able to purchase a four-bedroom home because of DACA. He contributes to the economy, paying his mortgage and taxes, and is building an American life, while also helping his mom and working hard. He, too, faces a bleak future when his permit expires.
The good news is that the Dreamers are not without support from legal communities and the public. Polls show that Americans support a path to legalization for Dreamers. And, on January 9, 2018, a Ninth Circuit Federal Court Judge issued a temporary injunction against the September 2017 decision by President Trump to end DACA. This injunction is nationwide and orders the government to continue accepting renewal applications from DACA holders. The order instructs the government to issue instructions as to how individuals can file their renewal applications; nothing has been released yet however, and the government has already expressed plans to appeal. However, this ruling has given Dreamers hope for a possible renewal of their work permits until Congress acts on the future of DACA. We must remember that it is not a long-term solution, as it leaves first-time DACA applicants ineligible for relief.
It is utterly misguided to leave hundreds of thousands of lives in limbo as the administration has done. We need leadership to ensure that America does not fail the Dreamers and our entire country instead of doing the right thing. There is bipartisan, longstanding support for the Dream Act and these amazing, creative, innovative young people. What on earth are we waiting for?