No excuse for Biden administration’s slow response to protecting ‘Dreamers’ from deportation
At least 50,000 young people have applied for deportation relief since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was restored in full by a federal judge. But only 1.5% of those applications have been approved.
When a federal judge in December of last year ruled that the federal immigrant-protection program called DACA could again accept new applications, Joe Biden had just been elected president and immigration advocates rejoiced.
The celebration was short-lived, though, and for good reason.
At least 50,000 more immigrant teenagers and young adults have applied for deportation relief since then through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but only 1.5% of those applications were approved from January through March.
The big jump in applications came during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s the explanation being given by a federal agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for the extreme backlog in processing the new cases. But such excuses don’t make thousands of so-called “Dreamers” any safer from being booted from the only country they’ve ever called home.
The Trump administration attempted to abolish DACA in September 2017, and it took almost three years before the Supreme Court, in June of last year, blocked those efforts. The court did not rule that Trump, or any president, could not end the program, only that the Trump administration had failed to followed proper procedures in attempting to do so.
Now DACA is poking along only slowly, understaffed and spiritually battered, even as it faces another imminent court ruling that threatens its very existence. A federal judge in Texas, Andrew Hanen, who previously has called DACA unlawful, is set to rule in a case that contends President Barack Obama overreached altogether in creating DACA by executive order. Hanen’s ruling, however it goes, is likely to shoot straight to the Supreme Court.
This is not a complicated issue. At least not with respect to the need for immediate action by the Biden administration. DACA can and should be kicked into higher gear. It is only a matter of resolve by the president to boost the agency’s resources.
Some 50,000 young adults who are Americans in every way except for citizenship papers deserve a better deal. These are people who, on average, arrived in the United States at the age of 7 and have lived here for more than 20 years.
DACA grants temporary legal status to them if they graduated from high school or were honorably discharged from the military, and if they pass a background check. DACA allows them to obtain renewable two-year work permits, Social Security cards and state driver’s licenses. Since the program’s inception in 2012, DACA has allowed more than 800,000 young immigrants to remain with their families in the United States.
At that same time, though, if they apply for DACA protections and the program later is dismantled, they may have actually put themselves at greater jeopardy of being deported — because they have come forward and identified themselves as being unlawful residents.
The moral imperative to preserve and rebuild DACA becomes all the more pressing.
DACA recipients work. Some 91% of them hold jobs. They go to school. Some 45% of them are students, mostly at the college or post-grad level. They were brought to this country as children and they are making something of themselves.
Their only offense, which is no offense at all, is to not be properly documented residents.
Of all the enlightened immigration reforms being pushed in this country, there is none so right as DACA.
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