Melina’s Memorandum

The Uncertain Future for DACA: A Tumultuous Time for Undocumented Youth

The last week saw large-scale changes to immigration policy in the U.S., spearheaded by President Donald Trump and his administration. Most notably, former President Barrack Obama’s and his administration’s legacy executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), has been rescinded with Trump challenging Congress to create legislation to replace or fix it within six months.

DACA is an executive order that provides temporary stay to those who arrived in the U.S. as children, granting them legal status to work and receive an education. There are approximately 800,000 young adults who participate in this program, and they are dependent on it to stay in the country they call home. Many of these individuals came as young children, often times from Mexico, and the only home they know is the U.S. They were raised in the U.S., went to U.S. schools, and they speak English. They just weren’t born here.

One of the most important aspects of this issue is that DACA is an executive order, not a law. The American Bar Association states that an executive order is a directive that is given by the president of the U.S. which has the force of law, but is not an official piece of legislation because it is not from Congress. The U.S. is a country that is supposed to be dictated by laws created by the legislative branch. Long-standing orders from the executive branch with the force of law, in place of a law, prove to be problematic.

Obama created DACA in 2012 as an executive order to circumvent the failure of the original Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act (DREAM) passing both houses of Congress. The DREAM Act would have provided legislation ensuring a long term plan for a path to citizenship for these childhood arrivals. DACA was the next best thing in that instance.

DACA is not flawless. It is not a long term plan towards attaining citizenship. Also, it is not a permanent solution. Nevertheless, it was a lifeline for young undocumented immigrants.

On the surface, it appeared as though the Obama administration had thrown these drowning individuals a life jacket, and the Trump administration had yanked it back.

Given the nature of Trump’s rhetoric towards immigration on the campaign trail along with the precarious nature of his time in office thus far, undocumented immigrant activists and DACA recipients themselves were outraged. It seemed as though it was the first step in Trump’s promise to crack down on illegal presence in the U.S. starting with the people the previous administration had worked so hard to protect.

The president’s rescission of DACA comes with the idea that the laws that govern this nation need to be just laws, not executive orders. This logic is fair and seems as though it is not some veiled attempt at attacking vulnerable individuals like what it was perceived to be originally.

To many’s astonishment, Trump’s recent statements have proved level-headed and in favor of protecting these “dreamers” through future legislation.

President Trump tweeted on Sept. 14, 2017, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!……They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age….”

This working in tandem with his recent bipartisan efforts show that there may be hope. President Trump has sided with Congressional Democrats on the federal budget. He met with Democratic leaders such as U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi on ways to work DACA into legislation. The content of these meetings and details of the future legislation are still being worked out; however, it shows a promising start towards negotiations across the aisle.

As someone who grew up in a border city and knows many who benefit from the DACA program, the news of its uncertain future was distressing to me. Close friends of mine protested its rescission and wept for the prospect of being forced to leave the country they call home. There is no doubt it is a scary time for these individuals.

Despite this, my faith in the U.S. regardless of the political climate is what is driving me to stay optimistic about the situation.

This is an opportunity for the U.S. government to do right by these people. An opportunity for Congress to participate in bipartisan work for the good of undocumented immigrants looking to better American society. It is an opportunity for Trump to show that he in fact does have a compassionate side.

Could a revised DREAM Act pass this time? Is it possible that DACA will just be rewritten into legislation made by Congress? Only time will tell. There are no guarantees that they will actually create the needed legislation to ensure those on DACA continue to have legal residency.

If you are passionate about seeing these individuals protected, write to your U.S. senators and your U.S. congressman or congresswoman. They want to hear your voice and your opinions.