Biden’s Plans for DACA
DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created in 2012 under the Obama administration. It aimed to protect Dreamers-children brought to the United States by their immigrant parents- who did not have any citizenship or legal residency status. Despite not establishing a path to citizenship, DACA protects Dreamers from deportation for two years, and such protection can continue to become renewed.
To be a DACA recipient, one must arrive in the United States before age 16, currently, be in high school, hold a diploma or a G.E.D., or have been in the military, and not have been convicted of any serious felonies. Under DACA, Dreamers can legally remain in the United States and obtain work permits and health insurance. The ability to work legally greatly benefits Dreamers as it provides them finances for school and the opportunity for higher education. Certain states may also allow Dreamers to qualify for in-state tuition and state-funded educational grants and loans, stated in The New York Times.
In 2017, DACA was at threat of being discontinued by the command of President Trump; this would mean that the 700,000 Dreamers, at the time, would be subject to deportation. As this case reached the Supreme Court, the votes inhibited this from happening, and the Court's justification was that the Trump administration “could not immediately end the program…” seeing that President Trump’s reasoning was “..not legally sufficient”, as stated by The New York Times. Though, the Supreme Court was arguing whether President Trump's justification for ending DACA was sound, rather than the benefits of DACA and the choice to end it, meaning DACA was vulnerable to being challenged in the future. Even though President Trump was unable to remove DACA, he had placed a suspension on accepting new applicants, which heavily burdened the thousands of Dreamers in the United States.
President Trump's decision to terminate DACA was not without public dissent. Large crowds in support of DACA had gathered outside the Supreme Court rallying for the preservation of DACA. A long, white, decadent banner held by several ralliers imprinted with the phrase, "Here to Stay”, in bold capital letters, was waved outside the Supreme Court Building. The public felt strongly for the support of DACA, as without it, Dreamers would be stripped of many opportunities and would not even have the chance to remain in the United States legally.
The New York Times interviewed current DACA recipients in 2017, asking them how they felt towards Trump’s decision to revoke DACA. A young Dreamer named Bruna Bouhid lived in the United States for 18 years. She emphasized the responsibility of “Democrats and Republicans alike...” of defending DACA recipients, who resided in nearly every state. Bruna Bouhid also described her current feelings under the DACA program. She said, “Every time my parents call me after 11 p.m., it’s like my heart is racing. When you are an immigrant in this country, you wake up every day with the fear that you could be taken away...that your family could be broken up.” Miss Bouhid is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers dependent on the DACA program. Even under the program, Dreamers are in constant fear of being unexpectedly deported to their mother countries. And with Trump’s attitude towards DACA, immigrants are only more likely to feel that their residence in the United States is in jeopardy.
Fast forward to 2021, the Biden administration reported that they would enact regulations to protect the DACA program from being challenged. Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, announced that his department would create a rule to “preserve and fortify” DACA, as stated on CBS News. Mayorkas felt that Biden’s decision was “...an important step, but only the passage of legislation can give full protection and a path to citizenship to the Dreamers who know the U.S. as their home.” The DACA program will continue to be at risk of termination if no legislation becomes created to protect it.
In December of 2020, Tumlin, founder of the Justice Action Center, moved towards ending Trump’s 2017 suspension of the DACA program. CBS News reported that in March 2021, the American Dream and Promise Act was passed, which would make DACA recipients and “...other undocumented immigrants brought to the country before age 18” eligible to apply for permanent residency for 10 years, assuming they met specific requirements. Biden signed the proposal into law; however, many immigrants are under Temporary Protected Status, and it is unclear whether this new act would extend to them.
León Rodríguez, the second U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director for the Obama administration, told CBS News that “...the only real resolution to this issue, is a pathway to citizenship, not just for the Dreamers, but for much of the long-standing undocumented population in the U.S.”
President Biden is clearly in support of the DACA program. Though, the extent of his commitment to immigrant rights will continue to be observed throughout his presidency. Immigration will continue to be a topic of debate among both Democrats and Republicans; ultimately, a legalized plan towards immigrant citizenship is vital if immigration programs like DACA want a chance at lasting success.