The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented in 2012 by Democratic President Barack Obama offered relative stability to almost 700,000 other so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children. Now, DACA is under threat, with the Supreme Court next week hearing oral arguments over U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to wind down the program.
The court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, is hearing the Trump administration’s appeals of three lower court rulings that blocked as unlawful his 2017 plan.
Marco Saavedra, who helps his parents with their restaurant La Morada in the Bronx, New York, is seeking asylum from federal immigration court as a human rights activist. Saavedra came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was three-years-old. His parents are undocumented.
“The ask for other Dreamers is to not remain complacent, to not live in the shadows,” Saavedra said. “The Immigration (Reform and Control) Act has received no protections since 1986. Amnesty…DACA happened in 2012, that’s 25 years with no victories for our community and we just see further militarization on the border, criminalization, expansion of detention centers, and this has got to stop and the only way they are going to stop it are people like ourselves, that are directly affected.”
The Dreamers have received influential backing from various business groups, including Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc, as well as higher education institutions from across the country.
The University of California school system, which has around 1,700 Dreamers enrolled, joined the litigation against Trump’s move, along with states such as California and New York, Dreamers across the country, and civil rights groups.
“I simply don’t understand the motive behind saying … ‘we’re going to throw the resources of the federal government against these people and subject them to deportation and cancel their authority to work’. You know, really? Why? What good is being served here?” Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California school system, told Reuters. She was Secretary of Homeland Security under Obama when the DACA program was unveiled.
As a result of the court rulings the program, in which those eligible can get renewable two-year work permits, remains in effect for people already enrolled. New applications are not being accepted by Trump’s administration. Since January 2018, the administration has issued more than 473,000 renewals, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives earlier this year passed a bill that would protect “Dreamers” but the Republican-controlled Senate has shown no sign of approving it.
Trump’s effort to rescind DACA, even as he says he supports Dreamers, is part of his tough stance on immigration, which has become a prominent feature of his presidency and his re-election campaign. The Trump administration says it ended the program because it was an unlawful exercise of presidential power.
Under his proposal, protections for Dreamers were to have begun phasing out in March 2018.
Obama created DACA by executive action in 2012 as what he called “a temporary stop-gap measure” after the failure in Congress of earlier bipartisan legislation that would have provided a path to citizenship to young immigrants brought by their parents illegally into the country as children.
Obama and others who support the program said the people it protected were raised and educated in the United States, grew up as Americans and often know little about their countries of origin.
Trump has said he wants to wait for the Supreme Court to rule – in the expectation that he will win – so that Democrats are more likely to agree to a deal. The White House, as it has done in the past, could seek hardline immigration measures the as part of the negotiations.
If the administration prevails, “the Republicans and Democrats will have a DEAL to let them stay in our Country, in very short order,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Oct. 9.
If the Supreme Court rules for Trump, Napolitano is not confident that the administration will ultimately reach a deal, in part because of its harsh rhetoric against immigrants.
“That’s a thin reed on which to place our hopes,” she said.
(Production: Hussein Al Waaile, Mica Rosenberg and Roselle Chen)