DACA Turns 9 Years Old: We Look Back Over the Years as Dreamers’ Hope for Citizenship Grows

DACA 9 years

On June 15 2012, President Barack Obama announced a new policy in the rose garden of the White House – a policy that would change the future of millions of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

That was the birth of DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – a program that would allow temporary relief to young people who had entered the country illegally, been brought up as American, but had long been living with the threat of deportation to somewhere that was no longer their home.

Fast forward to 2017, and President Trump had declared to repeal DACA on ‘day one’ of his presidency. Indeed, albeit 5 months later, in June that year, things began to change. The Department of Homeland Security announced its intention to repeal Obama’s executive order that had earlier expanded the DACA program and that DACA’s existence as a whole would continue to be reviewed.

Trump: “It’s now time for Congress to Act!”

In September 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the entire program would be repealed and that DACA-recipients were ‘lawbreakers’ who ‘adversely affected the wages and employment of native-born Americans’. New applications were to be suspended for 6 months and up to 800,000 DACA-eligible immigrants would be threatened with deportation after those 6 months had passed. President Trump followed the Attorney General’s announcement with a statement blaming Obama for creating the program through executive order, stating “It’s now time for Congress to Act!” if a solution was to be found.

Cross-Party Condemnation

The move to effectively terminate DACA was condemned as “cold-hearted” and “short-sighted” by those in the media, with former President Obama labelling it as “cruel.” Even among Republicans, there was criticism of the move, with veteran senator John McCain saying that “children who were illegally brought into this country through no fault of their own should not be forced to return to a country they do not know.” Many immigrant organizations and religious groups pledged their solidarity to those affected.

Lifelines through the courts

In January 2018, among a raft of legal challenges brought my a number of states, the District Court for the Northern District of California temporarily blocked the rescission of the DACA program, with the administration announcing they they would would immediately resume approving DACA renewal applications just a few days later.

Over the next few years, countless judgements were made all the way up to the Supreme Court – none of which resulted in the full restoration of the program – and indeed a Supreme Court ruling in June 2020 that called the decision to rescind DACA “arbitrary and capricious” still left doors open for Trump to end the program before he left office.

A new president and new hope for dreamers

On January 20, 2021, just hours after being sworn in as president, Biden reversed several Trump immigration policies by executive action. He also issued a memo reaffirming his administration’s support for DACA recipients and – in a groundbreaking bill sent to congress  – proposed a path to citizenship, something that has not existed before. However, the road to solidifying this in law will be long and difficult, but the hope remains that one day soon dreamers will no longer have to dream.

Dreamers are Americans.  Many have spent most of their lives in the United States.  They live, study, work, and worship in our communities.  They have served on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2012, the Obama-Biden Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.  Since that date, DACA has allowed more than 800,000 immigrant youth who came to the United States as children to temporarily remain in our country, work lawfully, pursue their education and long for the day they could become citizens.

Twenty years ago, Congress introduced the first version of the bipartisan Dream Act, led by Senator Durbin (D-IL) and former Republican Senator Hatch.  And over the years, bipartisan coalitions of lawmakers championed this bill.  The  American public overwhelmingly supports this legislation. But time and time again, the Senate has failed to act.

Only Congress can provide a permanent legislative fix to provide lasting stability for these young people and their families.  My immigration bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act, creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals in our country, including Dreamers.  In March, the House took a critical first step and passed the American Dream and Promise Act.   Congress must find a way to pass these legislative solutions and I will continue to work towards passage of legislation protecting Dreamers and creating a path to citizenship for  undocumented immigrants. These young people represent the best of America and we can’t let them down.

Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on DACA Day – June 15, 2021


© Margaret W. Wong & Associates 2021. The above text is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. 

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