On September 5, the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA temporarily shields undocumented individuals who came to the country before age 16 and meet other requirements from deportation. About 800,000 people have received DACA status since the program’s inception in 2012, thousands of whom are community college students.
If they lose their protection, DACA recipients will return to their status as it existed prior to the program. Perhaps most importantly in the immediate term, they would lose their work authorizations, potentially ending the employment of thousands of people. DACA status also is the linchpin for other benefits, including in-state tuition in some places. Longer-term, former DACA recipients will once again be subject to deportation, though it remains unclear how they will be prioritized by the administration.
Earlier this year, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) introduced the latest iteration of the Dream Act (S. 1615, H.R. 3440), legislation that AACC has supported since it was first introduced in 2001. AACC continues to support this vital legislation. The Dream Act would provide DACA recipients and others who came to this country as children with conditional legal status. The bill would provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship that requires obtaining higher education, serving in the military, or being gainfully employed.
DACA recipients and others that are eligible for the Dream Act are individuals that were brought to this country as children, and often know only this country as their home. They meet numerous other stringent requirements in order to qualify, and lose their status should they stop meeting them. DACA recipients, with the work authorization provided via the program, are making tremendous economic, social and civic contributions to their communities and the nation as a whole. In short, these are people for whom we should be finding ways to keep in this country rather than subject them to deportation.
The administration has, regrettably, increased the urgency for Congress to act in this area. Without such action, soon thousands of DACA recipients will start losing their status and immediately lose their work authorizations, likely resulting in most of them losing their jobs. Many will have to drop out of school. They will be subject to deportation to countries with which they have little connection. This is poor social and economic policy.
Numerous other bills similar to the Dream Act have been introduced, and though passing a “clean” Dream Act would be the best solution, final resolution of this issue may very well come by combining elements of some or all of these bills.