For DACA “Dreamers,” the Nightmare Continues

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been the source of extensive debate since its creation in 2012. The program allows undocumented foreign nationals who were brought to the United States as children to defer their removal from this country every two years. In September 2017, President Trump rescinded the DACA program. However, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump Administration’s rescission violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Notably, the Court’s decision did not prohibit President Trump from attempting another rescission, within the bounds of the law.

On July 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memorandum reiterating the Trump Administration’s intentions to roll back the DACA program. In the memo, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf directed the DHS to reject all pending and future requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole, barring exceptional circumstances, and to shorten the DACA renewal period to one year. All this was done, in seemingly direct opposition to the order issued by the Supreme Court.

In the July memorandum, Wolf himself acknowledges several arguments in favor of maintaining the DACA program. Specifically, he explains that many DACA recipients have come to depend on public benefits, that rescinding DACA would affect the families, employers, and employees of DACA recipients, and that DACA recipients have made substantial contributions to the U.S. economy. After this acknowledgment, Wolf makes the dubious argument that the DACA program sends mixed messages about immigration enforcement by encouraging the ongoing violation of immigration laws.

The DACA program is far from the easy path for immigrants that opponents may believe it to be. Like any other program, DACA has extensive eligibility requirements. The program only applies to individuals who have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 2007. DACA recipients must have come to the U.S. before their sixteenth birthdays. They must have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a GED, received an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces, or meet the “currently in school” requirement.

Furthermore, foreign nationals with felony offenses, significant misdemeanor offenses, or three or more misdemeanor offenses are ineligible for the DACA program. The program’s own requirements state DACA recipients cannot pose a threat to national security or public safety. Thus, the Trump Administration has no reason to be threatened by the presence of law-abiding DACA recipients, who have been renewing their DACA authorization in compliance with the existing program.

The Trump Administration has made every effort to make life difficult for foreign nationals in the United States, regardless of their immigration statuses. Yet, targeting this group seems especially mean-spirited. One can only hope that a political solution can be found to protect this vulnerable population.


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