DACA Dreamers and the Rocky Road to Citizenship
In 2015, there were approximately five million undocumented children and young adults under the age of 30 living in the U.S. (Cabrera and Patler 7). Unlike their parents, these children did not sign up for the life of an undocumented immigrant. They could not make the conscious choice to face prejudice from their new communities nor to deal with the constant fear of deportation. These children are innocent, yet our government has an extensive history of treating them like criminals. Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, otherwise known as DACA, these undocumented children are afforded temporary legal status and rights, but the Trump administration has jeopardized the future of DACA recipients and any hope they may have of becoming naturalized citizens.
Prior to DACA, there were many legislative precedents and attempts to integrate undocumented children into our society. According to a report by the Pullias Center for Higher education, the supreme court ruled in the case of Pyler v. Doe that all children, including undocumented children, had the right to a free public education without providing a social security number or documentation of immigration status. Following this ruling, the DREAM Act was proposed in 2001 which would have provided a path to legal status for many immigrants and their children. Although a modified version of this bill passed the House in 2010, it was struck down by the Senate (Venegas et al. 2). While the DREAM Act failed to pass congress, California, which is home to approximately 2.6 million undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, passed the California Dream Act; this program expanded the state’s financial assistance for postsecondary education to include undocumented immigrants (Cabrera and Patler 15). Some of these measures have helped, but, ultimately, they have not been enough to resolve the issue of what to do with undocumented children.
Attempting to further reconcile this issue, President Barack Obama instituted the DACA program via executive order (Venegas et al. 2). Kristen Venegas and colleagues summarize DACA as a temporary grant of legal status for children of undocumented immigrants. DACA also provides work permits and the right to attend college (2). To qualify for DACA, individuals must have arrived before their sixteenth birthday and must have resided here before June 15, 2017 through the present. They also must have been younger than 31 at the time of DACA’s implementation in 2012. Furthermore, they may not have a significant criminal record. Everyone enrolled in DACA must be working towards or have received a high school diploma or GED. This requirement can also be fulfilled if they are veterans of the US military (4). Since this program is temporary, applications must be renewed every two years to maintain their “”DACAmented”” status (Karaim).
DACA recipients are collectively referred to as the “”DREAMERs”” and encompass many types of individuals. According to Venegas et al, DREAMERs are those “”individuals who were brought to the U.S. by their guardians”” and they have “”little to no connection to their countries of origin”” (2). A total of 800,000 DREAMERs have been enrolled in DACA since it was established with approximately 690,000 currently enrolled as of September 2017 (Krogstad and Lopez). The top three countries of origin for enrollees are Mexico, 79.4% of enrollees, El Salvador, 3.7% of enrollees, and Guatemala, 2.6% of enrollees. Overall, 94% of DACA enrollees are Latino but recipients come from Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa as well. According to Krogstad and Lopez, the average age of these recipients is 24 and about two-thirds of recipients are under 25. This means that the majority of DACAmented immigrants are college-age students. While a study conducted by UCLA indicates that 87% of DREAMERs are or have been enrolled in post-secondary education, nearly 75% percent had trouble financing their education and had to take semesters off (Cabrera and Patler).
In 2017, Trump presented Congress with an ultimatum that has left the future of DREAMERs in a haze of uncertainty. In his article, Reed Karaim asserts that Trump has demanded $25 billion towards the funding of his border wall, money for increased immigration enforcement, and new limitations for legal immigration. If these demands had been met by March of this year, Trump said that he would grant DACA for up to 1 million more immigrants, in addition to providing a pathway to citizenship for currently enrolled DREAMERs. However, his demands were not met and DACA is no longer accepting new applications (Karaim). According to Minneapolis Post reporter Sam Brodey, Trump had moved to deny renewals as well. In response, injunctions were issued by federals courts in San Francisco and New York City. These injunctions require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue accepting renewal applications. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the battle. The Trump Administration has bypassed the court of appeals and taken their complaint directly to the U.S. Supreme Court who will have to make a final ruling. While Congress has the ability to act on resolving this issue, if history is any indication, then they will not do anything leaving the DREAMERs future in the U.S. up in the air once again.
Topic sentence and transition. Although DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, approximately 40,000 DACAmented DREAMERs have received their green cards (Lopez). These DREAMERs could have received this legal status by marrying a United States citizen, being granted Asylum, or qualifying for special visas such as Crime Victim Visas (Lopez). DACA recipients are not allowed to go undergo the process of naturalization under ordinary circumstance. William Kandel states that naturalization is the process we use to provide citizenship to legal immigrants. The USCIS “”United States Citizenship is a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution…””