The past few months have been a very trying time for Dreamers—particularly those who’ve received legal status and permission to work through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since the Administration’s September 5, 2017 decision to end the program, Dreamers have endured a relentless up and down. Promises from members of Congress have been followed by inaction, and currently the fate of nearly 800,000 aspiring Americans rides on the outcome of a handful of legal challenges.
Today, Monday, March 5, 2018, marks the day initially announced as the end date of the DACA program. With all that has happened over the past few months, it is very important to understand the current situation for Dreamers. Here’s where things stand…
Unfortunately, as of today, Congress still has not acted to secure a path to citizenship for Dreamers or to protect DACA recipients, despite having multiple opportunities to do so. Just a few weeks ago, the Senate voted on four different bills which sought to address this issue in a variety of different ways. All four provided a pathway to citizenship, although there were differences in how each bill arrived at this result. Additionally, each bill featured elements of increased immigration enforcement, particularly around the US southern border. South Carolina Senator Graham voted in favor of all four bills, while Senator Scott only voted in favor of one – the one that received the least amount of support and was the most restrictive. The House did not take up any .
What does this failure to act mean for the roughly 6,400 current DACA recipients in South Carolina or nearly 800,000 nationwide? What’s more, not every Dreamer has been able to obtain DACA, in all, the futures of almost 9,000 SC Dreamers—and as many as 3.6 million nationwide—are currently at stake.
Since Congress has failed to act, the status of DACA recipients is being decided in the courts. Following the Administration’s decision to rescind President Obama’s Executive Order creating DACA, two lawsuits were filed challenging the legality of ending the DACA program. Those lawsuits, one out of New York and the other in California, both resulted in temporary injunctions, issued by the Federal judges in each case. As a result of the rulings, USCIS will continue to process DACA renewals*, as long as the injunctions remain in effect.
This is an important win, however, the rulings do not allow first-time DACA applications to be submitted, which means hundreds and possibly thousands of young immigrants who would be eligible to apply for the first time are currently unable to do so. Additionally, the rulings made it very clear that DACA approval is still on a case by case basis, which has been the practice since the beginning of the program.
Despite these temporary wins, these rulings may not be the final word. The Department of Justice (DOJ) ultimately wants both cases reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). This will take time. The next step will be for each case to go through the normal appeals process before the issue could finally end up before SCOTUS. For now, this means DACA renewals can continue.
Ultimately, all of the legislative and legal back and forth is felt most by individual Dreamers, including those right here in communities across South Carolina. Dreamers like Griselda, who came to Allendale, at the age of 1, or David, who moved to West Columbia at the age of 5, or Lenda, who arrived in Saluda at the age of 2—their lives are still in limbo. Griselda still hopes to realize her dream of becoming a lawyer, to advocate for her community. David aspires to defend the only country he’s ever known in uniform, proudly serving in the US Military. Lenda dreams of becoming a nurse, caring for South Carolinians in their time of need.
Although these Dreamers’ families, lives, and everything they know is here in South Carolina, they don’t know if they will ever have their status stabilized into law. They dream of one day becoming the US citizens they already feel they are in their hearts. Yet, this future remains uncertain for as long as Congress continues to fail to act. So long as this remains the case, the lives, livelihoods and dreams for all current DACA recipients and the countless Dreamers unable to apply while the legal challenges remain unresolved will continue to hang in the balance.
* If you have specific concerns about your DACA renewal talk to an experienced immigration attorney. This is imperative if you went through a period without DACA status or have pending charges or pled guilty to an offense.