‘Dreamers’, Immigrant advocates, higher education institutions, and leading elected officials are up in arms against the latest steps outlined by the Department of Homeland Security to change the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, DACA, announced July 28, 2020, by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf.
“… pending my full reconsideration of the DACA policy, I direct DHS personnel to take all appropriate actions to reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances, and to shorten DACA renewals consistent with the parameters established in this memorandum,” Secretary Wolf declared. Renewals will be reduced to one year instead of the current two years.
“For over 5,000 South Asian DACA recipients, and the over 20,000 Indians alone who remain eligible for DACA, this will have a direct impact on any existing renewal applications and for any undocumented South Asian youth who were hoping to apply for DACA,” said South Asian Americans Leading Together, an advocacy organization, which also outlined steps activists could take to counter attempts to dismantle DACA.
Leezia Dhalla, press director (immigration) for Fwd.us, an immigration reform advocacy organization, told News India Times the latest step would affect all 700,000 DACA recipients enrolled in the program. “They all came as children … they are American in virtually every single way.” She accused the current administration of setting the state to “kill DACA” in 2021 if the President is re-elected. Fwd.us describes itself as a ‘bipartisan team of political campaigners spanning the fields of policy, advocacy, and technology working to create a stronger America.”
“They’ve tried for four years to get rid of this program filing appeals, expedited review requests, … and they’ve failed every time,” Dhalla said quoting recent polls which she said showed most Republicans also support DACA.
The program initiated by the Obama administration in June 2012, gave some of the youth brought to this country illegally as children, a two-year reprieve within which they could also get their work permits, and deportation proceedings would not be launched against them during that period. Those eligible to apply included children who were brought here before they turned 16, and had lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007.
There are approximately 700,000 DACA recipients (689,800 as of Sept. 4, 2017: USCIS) in the country (About 9 in 10 born in Latin America) of which around 4,660 are estimated to be of South Asian origin going by USCIS data.
South Asian DACA Recipients By Country Of Origin As of Sept. 4, 2017
Sri Lanka: 130
Table compiled from: USCIS.GOV –Approximate Active DACA Receipts – March 31, 2020 (PDF, 80.13 KB).)
“The actual number of South Asians are estimated to be higher, as stigma attached with illegal status within the community and fear of sharing family information may have lowered the number of DACA applications,” the BBC contended in a Jan. 25, 2018 report.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) data as of March 31, 2020, the ‘Approximate Active DACA Recipients’ numbered 643,560; and renewals were pending for 39,130. In addition, the data released showed ‘Approximate DACA Renewals Pending with Expired DACA numbered 8,210; and ‘Approximate DACA Initials Pending’ as of the same date this year was 3,110.
Deferred action does not provide a path to citizenship, nor grant a permanent resident status. It does however, bestow a legal status that allows recipients to work toward other immigration status.
After several years of back and forth in various state courts, the matter ended up in the Supreme Court, which consolidated all cases and on June 18, as the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc, the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that the there was ‘insufficient’ reason on the part of the administration to rescind DACA. Roberts also said and that the move to end DACA, was “arbitrary and capricious.” But he qualified that ending the program was not unconstitutional, rather the way it was done broke the Administrative Procedure Act, and DHS could use alternative ways to approach it.
Back in September 2017, when the Trump administration ordered an end to DACA, it resulted in lawsuits filed by colleges and universities as well as other entities.
“There will certainly be another round of litigation to compel DHS to follow the law.” Doug Rand, founder of the immigration concern Boundless.com and a former Obama White House official, told News India Times. “The Trump administration is openly defying a Supreme Court order, which requires DHS to re-open DACA for first-time applicants,”
Judge Roberts also gave the Trump administration 25 days to file for a rehearing, which the White House did not.
Instead, this latest action announced July 28, takes immediate effect and results in rejecting all new applications and reducing renewals to one year instead of the previous two years.
In making the latest move, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and other top officials including Deputy Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccineli referred to the Supreme Court’s conclusion that the administration could avail of other legal means to achieve what it wanted with DACA. They also said that the latest move was a stopgap and temporary measure pending the final decision.
DACA recipients working at the immigrant advocacy organization Forward.us, issued a statement condemning the latest move to weaken DACA protections.
“The Trump Administration’s decision today to radically weaken DACA protections for Dreamers like us makes it clear that this Administration is willing to do whatever it takes – including ignoring a clear directive from the Supreme Court – in order to advance its hateful, anti-immigrant agenda and separate our families.” They called the action “absurd” and “offensive” to hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who have spent their lives in the U.S.
They quoted a new poll conducted by POLITICO and Morning Consult in June which showed that 69 percent of Trump voters supported protecting Dreamers from deportation, and 85 percent of Americans as a whole were for it.
In an interview on National Public Radio, Cuccinelli conceded that “the Supreme Court said overwhelmingly that Trump administration can move forward to rescind DACA but that you haven’t done it the right way… Procedurally, it was flawed.”
Cuccinelli indicated that the latest step was an “interim guidance” and “that a final resolution will be undertaken through a more lengthy process as anticipated by the Supreme Court ruling.” But he skirted around the question of whether President Trump intended to end DACA.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the July 28 announcement “patently illegal.”
“The Trump administration must accept new DACA-applications AND extend legal protection for the full two years. Anything less is in defiance of the Supreme Court,” the ACLU tweeted.
“We knew the Supreme Court victory was temporary,” said SAALT about the June 18 ruling of the highest court in the land against the Administration’s actions on DACA. It urged followers to help raise resources for future actions, email lawmakers and spread the message through social media to continue lobbying for DACA’s continuation.