What’s the Deal with DACA?

February 12, 2018 9:55 am
by David Jakeman

To howls of indignation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA was ending. The program, implemented in 2012 to provide relief for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, has been incredibly controversial, partially because of the way it was enacted—as an executive workaround by President Obama instead of through Congress—and partially because the political climate regarding immigration is quite simply a pile of dry tinder just needing a tiny spark.

DACA’s Six Month Window

But there’s a catch. The Trump administration has announced that it’s ending DACA, but Trump has also said that he will take no action for six months, in order to give Congress a chance to act. After the announcement, he tweeted that Congress had six months to act, and if they didn’t, he would revisit the issue.

President Trump has also indicated that he is sympathetic to the plight of Dreamers. In a press release from September 5, 2017, he stated that he doesn’t believe in punishing children for the actions of their parents. He pledged to resolve the DACA issue with “heart and compassion” and also called for an overall overhaul of the US immigration system. 1

The press release describes the change to DACA as a winding down, with minimal disruption. Those who have work permits will have them until they expire, beginning six months from now, and those who have already submitted applications or renewals will have them honored. But no new applications or renewals will be accepted.

DACA and the Courts

Understanding the politics surrounding DACA are helpful in seeing that perhaps not all is lost. Ten state attorneys general and one state governor announced in June their intent to pursue a lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop DACA unless the White House voluntarily phased out the program itself. Many legal observers have judged the case’s odds of success to be quite high at the Supreme Court. So if the lawsuit went forward, it would have a good chance of being successful, which would end DACA altogether. The voluntary phase out takes the pressure off of DACA and places it on Congress, where it really should be anyway. There’s been too much foot dragging on immigration for too many years.

There’s been a twist in the legal case since the DACA announcement. The state attorneys general filed a notice to dismiss the case, but the judge overseeing the case has said that simply dismissing a case that has been pending for the past three years and has been to the Supreme Court and that this case requires more procedure. 2

DACA in Political Context

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has come out against ending DACA, and if he and Senate Majority Leader can’t get something passed in the next six months, it’s possible that Trump could quietly reinstate DACA, blaming Congress for its lack of action on an important issue. Alternatively, Congress could actually pass the DREAM Act once and for all. 3 Ryan has indicated that he thinks six months is adequate time to act. 4 Let’s hope he’s right.

This would be a much more acceptable outcome to critics of DACA, who see the Obama administrative procedure as overstepping the bounds of the president’s executive power. If Congress passes the DREAM Act, even the law’s fiercest critics can’t say it’s unconstitutional.

What’s certain right now is that everything is in play. It’s important to keep up to date on what’s happening on Capitol Hill and stay in touch with an immigration attorney in Beaverton or elsewhere to know how to navigate your individual circumstances.

1 – https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/09/05/statement-president-donald-j-trump
2 – http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/09/08/judge-rebuffs-dropping-dapa-lawsuit-242507
3 – https://theintercept.com/2017/09/05/donald-trump-end-daca-immigration-deportation-congress/
4 – http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/07/paul-ryan-daca-timeline-solution-242438

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