On June 15, 2012, I was attending the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference when President Obama made an announcement that was life-changing to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant youths. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) quickly became the saving grace for many who needed to obtain work authorization, a valid social security number, the ability to get a state ID or driver’s license and, most importantly, relief from deportation. The AILA conference was abuzz with excitement on the prospects of this program serving as a bridge to legislation and permanent relief known as the DREAM Act.
Nine years later, I find myself sitting at my desk e-mailing a U.S. Attorney about one of my clients. He has DACA, but also a removal order pending appeal that occurred prior to the DACA program being established. This young man came to the U.S. when he was only an infant. He was arrested on a traffic stop for not having proper identification. After fighting his removal based on a motion to suppress, the lower immigration court ordered him removed, and the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld his removal. Unfortunately, he had no other viable form of relief. The case went up to the Ninth Circuit.
While at the Ninth Circuit, DACA became a reality and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Immigration Litigation reached out and offered prosecutorial discretion and administrative closure of the proceedings. My client was given a new lease on his life in the United States. A country where all his siblings are U.S. citizens. Under the Trump administration, ICE filed a motion to recalendar his removal proceedings despite the fact that he has consistently renewed his DACA and it remains in force through today. The court recalendared his case and on June 14, 2021, the Ninth Circuit notified me that oral arguments will likely be scheduled.
With the recent policy guidance from John D. Trasviña, I have reached out to the U.S. Attorney to see if we can, again, dismiss this case. But, this case and so many others make it abundantly clear that DACA is not enough. Immigration attorneys, advocates and other allies have spent far too many hours working with DACA recipients to get that first authorization document, to get renewals filed, to agonize over lawsuits including the one in Texas right now where Judge Hanen (he who struck down the Deferred Action program President Obama tried to expand to include parents) is considering the legality of DACA itself.
If you are reading this on June 15, 2021, then the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on HR6, the American Dream and Promise Act which would FINALLY protect Dreamers and offer them a legal status that ends with the opportunity of citizenship. The House passed the bill on a bipartisan basis. 70%+ of American voters want Dreamers protected. The Senate needs to get it done.
What can you do? Call and e-mail your senators and let them know that without the passage of the American Dream and Promise Act, people like my client will continue to live a life of uncertainty.
A year from now, we should not be celebrating the ten-year anniversary of DACA. We should be celebrating the first months of a path to citizenship for these deserving individuals.