The Supreme Court’s decision Feb. 26 that it will stay out of the debate concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provides recipients the opportunity to renew their status, but also keeps “Dreamers” in a state of limbo.
DACA was established by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to ensure that children brought to the United States before the age of 16 could live, work and pursue higher education without fear of deportation.
The Court turned down the Trump administration’s request to immediately review lower court decisions that have protected the program thus far. While many Democrats and Republicans support DACA, Trump and a few GOP leaders have asserted that any measure making it permanent also include money for the infamous border wall that President Donald Trump called for while campaigning.
What this means is that Congress, Trump and the courts are at a standstill, and consequently the roughly 800,000 DACA recipients who live, work and pursue higher education in the United States are living with uncertainty.
Congress is holding the recipients’ futures hostage because they are worried about their own futures as politicians.
The situation may create an uncertain future for “Dreamers,” but the politicians who are pushing for the courts to lift the rulings that are protecting the recipients will face an obstacle of their own if successful. Midterm elections would roll around just as individuals who have been in the United States for years are ripped from their jobs, schools and families.
UNO graduate Nereida Rojas came to the United States when she was 6 years old and became a DACA recipient at 18. Rojas currently works with non-system families and youth to help parents learn new parenting skills in order to change and or improve their children’s behaviors, and she helps them get connected to community resources.
“If DACA had not been passed, I would not be working in the field I am now. I would have had to get a job that would pay me under the table since I would be undocumented,” Rojas said when interviewed earlier this year. “Achieving my goals would have had many more barriers.”
It may be naïve to believe that American voters will choose to protect their neighbors, colleagues, students and friends rather than back a party’s anti-immigration rhetoric, but empathy is a powerful thing.
It would be easy for the public to sympathize with the recipients. Like Rojas, they are ambitious individuals contributing to the U.S. workforce and economy. They are pursuers of the American dream.
“I, along with other DACA recipients, am the first one in my family to successfully graduate with a bachelor’s degree,” Rojas said. “Our parents are proud that we have been able to make our dreams come true through their sacrifice, because our parents are the original dreamers.”
The only real enduring solution is one made at the legislative level. A bipartisan act before Congress would protect DACA recipients from deportation and is needed because it would also create a pathway for DACA recipients to get permanent legal status if they met certain conditions.
“This election, the election of new members to the House and Senate, will decide the fate of this issue,” Sen. Dick Durbin told NPR earlier this week.
Durbin has been a vocal supporter of creating a path to leadership for Dreamers.
“We learned something during the course of this [debate], and it was unsettling,” Durbin told NPR. “We learned what the president’s real priorities were. The president said, ‘Let’s help these young people. We need to do something to fix DACA.’ And yet, given that opportunity, he rejected it.”
If the Trump administration, and any other politician fighting to end DACA, succeeds in pushing out of reach the futures dreamers have worked so hard for, they should also be prepared to say goodbye to their own political prospects.