January 31, 2018

DREAMers Remain in Limbo With One Month To Go for DACA Program

By Donald Gilpin

With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program March 5 termination date fast approaching, some 800,000 DREAMers, brought to the United States as children, remain in limbo, with lawmakers in Washington still unable to come to agreement on a proposal to replace DACA.

Democrats continue to call for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but without sharp cuts to legal immigration, significantly-enhanced enforcement, or a $25 billion wall. They have rejected the most recent White House proposal leading up to last night’s State of the Union address, which occurred after press time. 

Describing the Trump administration agenda as “extreme anti-immigrant” and its proposal as “not a real compromise,” U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) stated, “this plan is designed to leverage the future of DREAMers to ram through a massive, cruel, and family-punishing overhaul of our current legal immigration system.”

A number of DREAMers were expected to be in the audience for the State of the Union as guests of Democratic lawmakers in order to highlight the need for immigration legislation and a replacement for DACA.

With a permanent solution for DACA pronounced “dead” by a number of lawmakers, it seems likely that they will turn to a temporary extension of DACA, possibly with provisions for border security, possibly for only one year, without long-term certainty.

Princeton Council member and former board chair of the Latin American Legal and Defense Education Fund (LALDEF) Leticia Fraga expressed her concern about the looming DACA deadline. “I’m hopeful that the states have filed lawsuits challenging Trump’s decision to end the DACA program and will be successful in extending the program until legislators can agree on a permanent solution,” she said.

She also expressed optimism that the new Democratic administration in Trenton would be helpful to immigrants in need. “I am also heartened that our new governor has vowed to protect DREAMers, and am hopeful that his administration will implement other progressive policies that could be put in place at the state level — such as allowing individuals to apply for drivers’ licenses regardless of their immigration status.”

Decrying the political wrangling and the complications of entangling the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act in the federal budgetary process, LALDEF Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh stated that advocacy for a clean DREAM Act, without security or enforcement restrictions, remained a top priority. “This should be a bipartisan issue. It’s economically sound, morally sound, and makes all the sense in the world.”

LALDEF has been helping to process individuals’ DACA renewal applications since January 13, when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services resumed accepting requests.

“Number one for us is that our DREAMers continue to feel supported more than anything. Then we want to strengthen and support their voices and make sure that the larger community is hearing those voices. Those 800,000 individuals have their own lives and they need to be able to work, drive, engage in society. We have to hold the line on this.”