10 years after DACA, dreamers still face legal uncertainty


JYears ago, when Susana Lujano and her husband Luis first heard that they would be receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), it seemed like a godsend. Under the Obama-era executive order, they and other young unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children could obtain work permits and receive protection from expulsion.

But as DACA celebrates its 10th anniversary on Wednesday, the Lujanos remain mired in legal uncertainty. And there are only them: their 5-month-old baby, Joaquín, is an American citizen. Her future also depends on her parents’ ability to stay in the only country they’ve ever known.

While DACA was intended as a stopgap measure, Congress failed to create a permanent pathway to citizenship, although Republicans, arguing that former President Barack Obama lacked the authority to create such protections for Young Dreamers, have repeatedly challenged the program in court. . The result is that some 611,000 active DACA recipients, a generation long considered children, are now adults, with jobs, homes and children, and they remain in a crippling legal limbo.

The average DACA recipient is now nearly 28 years old and more than 184,400 are over the age of 30, according to December 2021 data from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There are now more DACA recipients over the age of 36 than under the age of 20. A 2021 survey by the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan political institute, found that 33% – or more than 203,000 – of DACA recipients have children of their own; 99% of these children were born in the United States

Read more: A dreamer’s life

Bruna Sollod, who was 21 when she received the DACA, says that when she was young, the uncertainty of her immigration status was easier to deal with. “I was a freshman in college, so it was good for me to think in two-year increments,” she told TIME. “Now that I’m a mom, now that I have a career that I really love, thinking in two-year increments doesn’t work anymore.” Sollod is the mother of a 4 month old little boy, an American citizen.

Not knowing if you can keep your job, if you’ll be deported, or if you can raise your child in the country where they were born changes the calculus of life, she says. “I’m angry that it’s taken so much pain for members of Congress to realize they have a job to do,” she said. “It makes me angry, and I don’t think I thought about it at the time.”

The consequences of ending DACA will become more severe as the generation that received protections ages, says Matthew La Corte, government affairs manager for immigration policy at the Niskanen Center, a Washington think tank. “It’s not just that a very bright high school student won’t be able to go to the college he wants or get the job he wants,” he says. “Now that really means breaking up families, that really means pulling highly productive people out of the workforce, that really means the potential for the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients who have U.S. citizen children, that their futures are in jeopardy. .”

DACA in court

Over its 10-year history, Republicans have challenged DACA and attempted to expand it numerous times in court. In June 2016, Texas successfully blocked an Obama administration executive order that would have protected parents of DACA recipients from deportation when it took the case to the Supreme Court. The Trump administration has also taken steps to try to end the program. On September 5, 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end DACA, sparking a flurry of lawsuits in an attempt to protect the program.

In a 2018 lawsuit filed by conservative attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the states argued that DACA should be terminated because it was created illegally and President Obama exceeded his executive authority. when he implemented the program. In July 2021, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas sided with the states, but ordered DACA to continue while barring USCIS from processing new applications for those qualified to the program.

Read more: Not legal not to leave

The Biden administration appealed the decision and on July 6, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case. Many lawyers and immigration experts believe the Texas case will likely go to the Supreme Court.

When she first received DACA at age 18, Susana Lujano, who works full-time as an assistant at a law firm in Houston, never thought people would actively work for her. remove status. The Trump years, she says, were the worst and most difficult of her life. “At no time did I imagine he was being fought so hard,” she told TIME in a Zoom call, as her mother feeds Joaquín in the background. “It was just blind hope.”

The chances of congressional action

On Wednesday, crowds gathered outside the Capitol building in Washington, DC and at rallies across the country to celebrate DACA’s 10th anniversary and to call on Congress to create a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Throughout the week, advocates met with lawmakers on the Hill, pushing Congress to create a path to citizenship for Dreamers. But such action seems unlikely, says La Corte. “While I encourage Congress to pull together and pass legislation protecting Dreamers, I think we all need to be realistic about the improbability of action,” he says.

According to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, 74% of American adults say they support a path to citizenship for young people brought to the United States illegally as children. The vast majority, 91%, of Democrats or those who are Democratic-leaning, support permanent residence for dreamers, while 54% of Republicans or those who are Republican-leaning say the same.

Read more: Read President Trump’s full statement on canceling DACA

Yet the issue of immigration remains highly polarized in American politics, particularly in an election year, and although a bipartisan group of senators have met privately to discuss possible immigration reform measures immigration, it is unlikely that action will be taken this term. “There’s a huge lack of political will to address the Dreamers at this Congress,” La Corte said, unless something drastic like the Supreme Court ending DACA happens. “Absent legal action that forces the hand of Congress, it is extremely unlikely that Congress will be able to pass the Dreamer protections in 2022.”

Sollod, who is now the senior director of communications and policy at United We Dream, an immigrant advocacy organization, says inaction is not an option. “A milestone like this, like the 10th anniversary, really puts a lot of things into perspective,” she says. “What does the next 10 years look like? It can’t be like this anymore. This cannot be a repeat of the last 10 years.

If DACA were to be terminated, Susana says, and if she received a deportation order, she would leave on her own before immigration officials could detain her. “I’m not waiting for them to come and take us,” she says. “I want us to leave with our heads held high.” And yes, she adds, Joaquín would go with her.

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Write to Jasmine Aguilera at [email protected]


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