You might have heard about the “Dreamers,” young people with no legal immigrant status who, because of an executive order issued by President Obama, were allowed to come out of the shadows and join the student population and workforce in the United States. However, their dream may soon turn into a nightmare.
The “Dreamers” are a product of DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - an executive order signed by President Obama in 2012. According to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS), a branch of Homeland Security in charge of regulating DACA, it allows “certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization.”
DACA provided immigration relief and shielded young people who arrived in the United States when they were just children. This group has spent most of their lives in this country. Being brought to the U.S. as children, most have only known the United States as their home, and have little to no ties to their country of origin.
Moreover, DACA considers that because they were brought as children, "dreamers" cannot be held accountable for their illegal entry into the U.S.
By signing up for the program, DACA shielded Dreamers from deportation, gave them the possibility of studying in any school or college of their choice, and provided a work permit, which must be renewed every two years. USCIS shows that, to date, over 741,000 people have benefited from the executive action.
With so many people signing up for the program, why are people worried about the future of the program?
An executive order is a legal tool that the President of the United States can use to carry out executive authority without having to go through Congress. This means the president can -- to some extent -- set policy while avoiding public debate and opposition. Given that an executive order is signed-off by a president, it is the president’s right to remove those orders at his discretion.
During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump ran a thorough platform against illegal immigration, detailing several plans to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States, and continue deportations carried out by other administrations. This could include those who obtained temporary legal status during the Obama years.
As of now, there is much speculation about what will happen after Inauguration Day, but Donald Trump has expressed his intentions of terminating the DACA program. Immigrant advocacy and protection groups are already taking action to educate DACA eligible immigrants about what might happen and how they can protect themselves.
Alliance San Diego, led by Executive Director Andrea Guerrero, is currently running an outreach program to provide DACA enrollees and DACA eligible immigrants in the San Diego area with critical information both before and after the inauguration.
“San Diego is home to one of the highest populations of DACA enrollees in the United States,” she told IVN. “With DACA, they have been able to come out of the shadows, pursue their education, contribute to our economy, and better our communities in so many ways without the constant threat of deportation."
Alliance San Diego has this advice for DACA eligible and enrolled immigrants:
- If you have DACA, you should renew now.
- If you don’t have DACA, it may not be wise to apply.
- If you’re traveling outside of the US, return before Inauguration Day, January 20, 2016.
- You may be eligible for other programs.
- Get advice from a lawyer, not a notary public.
- If detained, ask to see a judge before signing anything.
- Organize your documents and make sure someone you trust knows where they are.
Young people who stepped out of the shadows with the help of DACA are now fearing not only that the program will get cancelled, but that they will be targeted for deportation based off the information they willingly gave to Homeland Security.
If the president-elect wants to send a message about tougher deportation policies, which granted have already been high under President Obama, there is probably not a more accurate list of undocumented residents than the DACA list.