Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted as the result of an Executive Order by President Obama to aid those who came to the United States and were unlawfully present while under the age of 16. Applicants provided the U.S. government with all the details concerning their unlawful presence in exchange, they received a deferral (postponement) of deportation for renewable two-year periods. Once approved, DACA immigrants could remain in the United States and work, enabling them to obtain driver’s licenses, social security numbers, and to contribute to the social security system. Studies have shown that DACA has made a very positive impact on the U.S. economy. See full citation here.
President-Elect Trump has not taken consistent positions about the future of DACA. He has threatened to end the program and to deport the nearly 750,000 recipients. At other times, he has indicated that he will focus on deporting criminal aliens first and be more humane toward those who were brought here as children. While it is unclear what, when or how his plans will take effect, there is something now that U.S. citizen friends and family of DACA recipients can do to help.
Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Dick Durbin introduced S. 3542, the BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream of Growing Our Economy) last year to preserve the deferral of removal and right to work for current DACA beneficiaries. This Act should be passed regardless of whether Trump takes any adverse action against the DACA initiative.
Why The Bridge Act Is Even Better than DACA
Because DACA was enacted by Executive Order during the Obama Administration, there is no law in place to support it, and it has been ruled unconstitutional by at least one federal court judge. President-elect Trump could quickly and easily end the program and place every beneficiary into removal proceedings. If the BRIDGE Act is enacted, however, it will be law, and could only be terminated by an act of Congress. The BRIDGE Act would not provide a path to citizenship, but those who qualify would be allowed to remain and work in the United States in renewable 3-year increments.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona has also introduced S.3546, the SAFE Act (Securing Active and Fair Enforcement Act). The SAFE ACT seems to be very similar to the BRIDGE Act, but it includes harsh criminal penalties for unlawful presence, along with new provisions for mandatory detention and rapid removals.
How You Can Help (U.S. Citizens)
If you are a U.S. citizen, you can best help DACA immigrants by contacting your local Congressman to ask him or her to support the BRIDGE Act, not the SAFE Act. If you do not know who your representative is, click here.
What to Do if You Have DACA Now
In my opinion, DACA immigrants should renew their status until it is no longer possible. If you have DACA you should consult with an attorney to check if it is in your best interest to apply for advance parole, which could lead to possible permanent residence. You should also contact an attorney immediately if placed in removal proceedings or if you are arrested for any reason. I am ready to help.