We have been hearing volatile claims on both sides of the DACA program of late. I don’t think most Americans understand what it is and its value and importance. Let’s look at it closely:
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an American immigration policy founded by the Obama administration in June 2012. DACA allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The policy was created after acknowledgment that these illegal students had been largely raised in the United States, and was seen as a way to remove immigration enforcement attention from “low priority” individuals with good behavior. The illegal immigrant student population was rapidly increasing; approximately 65,000 illegal immigrant students graduate from U.S. high schools on a yearly basis. From the start, the Pew Research Center estimated that up to 1.7 million people might be eligible. As of June 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had received 844,931 initial applications for DACA status, of which 741,546 (88%) were approved, 60,269 (7%) were denied, and 43,121 (5%) were pending. Over half of those accepted reside in California and Texas.
There are many misconceptions about this program, the effects on all concerned if it is terminated, and what options there are — if there are options — of simply leaving it in place as is or with adjustments to the program. And there are many questions that are unanswered that most Americans would like answered.
Is DACA Part of U.S. Immigration Law?
No, it is not. On numerous occasions through the years different Immigration proposals have been discussed in both Houses of Congress, but none has ever been passed into law. The primary reason for the passage failure of each is that Democrats hold fast to the plan to (as part of any Immigration law) all illegals already in the U.S. be given a fast track to full citizenship. Republicans have held fast to the enforcement of existing Immigration law, which has been virtually ignored in large part by the last few Presidential administrations. The sticking point for all on the Left and many on the Right is “What do we do with all those who have been in the U.S. illegally — some for many years — instead of straight deportation?” That question has never been answered sufficiently to entice necessary votes from the “other” side in that argument to pass a comprehensive immigration law. No doubt the children brought here by their illegal immigrant parents are caught in this dilemma. The DACA program is NOT a law, but an Executive Order that has been a temporary fix, although the Obama Administration planned on its continued expansion. In November 2014, President Obama attempted to expand DACA. However, in December 2014, Texas and 25 other states sued in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas asking the court to enjoin implementation of both the DACA expansion and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (a similar program. In February 2015, Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued a preliminary injunction blocking the expansion from going into effect while the case, Texas v. United States, proceeds. After progressing through the court system, an equally divided (4-4) Supreme Court left the injunction in place, without setting any precedent.
DACA Eligibility and Requirements
To be eligible, illegal immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship, nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.
To qualify for DACA, applicants must meet the following major requirements, although meeting them does not guarantee approval:
- Came to the United States before their 16th birthday
- Have lived continuously in the United States since 15 June 2007
- Were under age 31 on 15 June 2012 (i.e., born on 16 June 1981 or after)
- Were physically present in the United States on 15 June 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
- Had no lawful status on 15 June 2012
- Have completed high school or a GED, have been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or are enrolled in school
- Have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
To show proof of qualification (verify these requirements), applicants must submit three forms; I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and I-765WS, Worksheet, as well as supporting documentation.
Immigration Reform Proposed Legislation
On January 28, 2013, a bi-partisan group of eight Senators, known as the “Gang of Eight” announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). The Senators involved include: Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
The policies envisioned by the Senators include the following provisions:
- A citizenship path for illegal immigrants already in the United States contingent on certain border security and visa tracking improvements. The plan provides for permanent residence for illegal immigrants only after legal immigrants waiting for a current priority date receive their permanent residence status and a different citizenship path for agricultural workers through an agricultural worker program.
- Business immigration system reforms, focusing on reducing current visa backlogs and fast tracking permanent residence for U.S. university immigrant graduates with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math also known as the STEM fields.
- An expanded and improved employment verification system for all employers to confirm employee work authorization.
- Improved work visa options for low-skill workers including an agricultural worker program.
On April 16, 2013, the “Gang of Eight” in the United States Senate introduced S.744, the Senate version of the immigration reform bill proposed in congress. The bill included a path to citizenship for eleven million illegal immigrants, a temporary worker program, increased visa numbers for skilled foreign workers, and a nationwide employment eligibility verification system.
On June 27, 2013, the United States Senate approved S.744, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 in a historic 68-to-32 vote. The immigration reform bill was sent to the United States House of Representatives, but has not since then been brought to the House floor for debate or an up-or-down vote.
What’s the Rub?
The primary reason the House of Representatives has not gained sufficient support of its members to even bring S.744 to the floor is the section of the bill that creates a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants already in the United States. The justification for that resistance lies in the fact that many Americans insist that all follow all pertinent laws — federal and state — and those who break the law should pay the consequences. Further in that conversation is the reminder of U.S. immigration laws that have been in force for decades under which about 1 million immigrants each year legally enter the U.S. Entering the U.S. illegally should not be ignored and those who do should pay the price for their lawbreaking rather than receiving a reward for their illegal acts. Why haven’t they entered the process to become legal like those 1 million who each year do so and gain legal status?
Most Americans do not accept the Justice Department picking and choosing which federal laws should be enforced and which should not. Constitutionally, no individual or entity except Congress is responsible for passing all laws to govern the actions of Americans. Constitutionally no one has an individual right to circumvent any laws.
- Why haven’t those DACA young people who want to live in the U.S. permanently immediately upon receiving their initial DACA status began the process of becoming U.S. citizens?
- Even though Congress has not passed any immigration laws to replace those in place, isn’t the structure of the legislative process detailed in the Constitution for that exact purpose? Apparently those representatives in Congress elected by their voting constituents have not yet seen any legislation sufficient to amass a necessary majority to pass and send to the President to be signed into law. As uncomfortable and as unacceptable as that may be to many, our legal structure was created so as to keep any laws being created without the consensus of the Peoples’ representatives. That is one of the major differences between the U.S. and other countries that has created and maintained U.S. greatness.
- Very simply: NO law enforcement agency or individual has an arbitrary right to NOT enforce federal. Many Americans have lost their lives as a direct result of these actions. Those guilty of allowing those deaths should be held accountable for doing so.
Because politicians have neglected for political purposes to do the tough job, negotiate and negotiate and negotiate as necessary with fellow Representatives and Senators to reach a consensus on any legislation, no changes have been made and will not be made until they do so. DACA was NOT legislatively instituted, rather by Executive Order by Obama. It cannot become law without Congress……period.