This post is researched by Sawsan Selim.

DACA: This term has been plastered all over mass media; it is dominating dialogue and fueling political debate, locally and federally. It is a term that has warranted outrage, causing thousands to flood representatives with phone calls, emails, and visits and take to the streets in demonstration. And yes, it is that important to cause this public outcry.

Background

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S.1291) legislation was introduced in 2001 as a bipartisan bill in the Senate.  The legislative goal was to provide a means for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to gain a pathway to permanent legal status; provided those individuals achieved certain milestones, including:

      • Attending or graduating from an institution of higher learning;
      • Be of a certain age to apply;
      • Be physically present in the U.S. for a certain number of years;
      • Have good moral character; and,
      • Not have violated other immigration laws

This bill failed to pass the Senate. However, at least 21 more bills were introduced in subsequent years that tried to pass a form of the DREAM Act bill and give DREAMers the opportunities they deserve and the ability to come out of hiding. All 21 attempts either failed or got stuck in committee review. So, while Congress debated the bill, the Department of Homeland Security implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to provide DREAMers with some form of temporary relief.

What exactly is DACA?

DACA allows undocumented individuals who arrived to the United States as children to receive “deferred action” against having them removed. Furthermore, DACA permits recipients to apply for work authorization to work in the United States. This deferred action status can be renewed for two years at a time. The qualifications to apply, however, surpass just being a childhood arrival to the United States. These individuals specifically had to:

      • arrive to the United States prior to their 16th birthday;
      • be under the age of 31;
      • continuously reside in the United States since June 15, 2007;
      • be in school, graduate or obtain a certificate of completion from high school or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate;
      • be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
      • and have no convictions of a felony or a significant misdemeanor.

DACA does not give any recipient legal status; it protected recipients against removal and allowed them to study in, work in, and contribute to the United States.

So, what happened on September 5, 2017?

The Trump administration publicly announced that it will phase out the DACA program, leaving approximately 800,000 DACA recipients at risk of deportation.

I am a DACA recipient. What next?

      • No new DACA applications will be accepted after September 5, 2017.
      • Your DACA is valid until its expiration date. Until your work permit expires, you do not have to stop working, tell your employer DACA has ended, or return your permit to the government (unless you are explicitly asked to). If you your work permit that will expire between now and March 5, 2018, you must apply for a two year renewal of your DACA by October 5, 2017.
      • Know your rights at work. With your employer, they do not have the right to ask about your immigration status once they have that on file. They cannot let you go because you are about to have a document expire.
      • Know that there is a 6 month delay period before the program formally ends. In that time, you can apply for a Social Security number and state ID card while your DACA and work permit are still valid.
      • If you obtained DACA status before age 18, you have actually never had any unlawful presence in the United States which potentially means that an employer could sponsor you.
      • If you do not have one already, hire a lawyer that can sit down with you and review your case before you do anything else. We here at Elkhalil Law are experienced attorneys on immigration law and in DACA.
      • Know your rights, be prepared, and know that the majority of Americans support you and DACA, including 75 percent of Trump’s base.

I am not a DACA recipient. Why should I care? What can I do to help?

The DACA repeal will impact everyone, including you. The human cost of DACA is massive. For DACA recipients, they will lose their rights, jobs, and property. Additionally, almost 50 percent of DACA recipients entered the United States prior to their 6th birthday, making their average age today to be 22. This means that beyond the risk of the deportation of 800,000 people, these individuals will be deported to unfamiliar places, some of which are life-threatening and lack real opportunity.

Moreover, majority of them are still students. 91 percent of DACA recipients are employed while 5 percent of DACA recipients also started their own businesses. This means that after repeal goes into effect, 30,000 people will lose their jobs each month. The economy would take a massive hit, equating to over 400 billion dollars in losses in ten years. On top of that, deportation of DACA recipients would cost yet another 7.5 billion dollars.

Most importantly and beyond the economic repercussions, these people are human beings who deserve dignity, security, respect, education, and opportunity just like any other person. To get involved in the fight against the DACA repeal, text DEFENDDACA to 877877 and look out for local courses of action to take. Besides that, flood your representatives and spread the word!

This blog post was researched by Sawsan Selim and reviewed by Debby Le.