Sleepless nights and anxiety-filled days. That’s how many of the so-called Dreamers described their lives as they waited for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). On June 18, they were able to breathe a sigh of relief – for now. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, joined by the court’s four liberal members, effectively blocked the Trump Administration from ending a program that protects about 800,000 young people from deportation.
But the ruling is just a brief respite. “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirements that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” In truth, Dreamers will only be safe when Congress passes a law, and the president signs it, giving these immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
The name Dreamers comes from the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) that was introduced in the Senate in August 2001 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The bill did not pass and has been reintroduced several times without going anywhere.
In June, 2012, President Obama signed an executive order establishing DACA which allowed immigrants younger than 31 years of age who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16, to receive work permits that could be renewed every two years, based on good behavior. In 2014, Obama wanted to expand the program to make more people eligible. His efforts were blocked when Texas and 25 other states, all with Republican governors, went to court. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 4-4 decision, let stand an injunction that had been handed down by a lower court.
For anyone who has followed the journey of the Dreamers it seems unconscionable that they should be in this position. These undocumented immigrants were brought to this country as children, the vast majority from Mexico. They have been raised here, gone to school here, have held jobs, paid taxes, and have become accepted members of their communities. 27,000 of them are doctors, nurses, EMT, and health care workers on the front lines fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are lawyers, teachers, university professors, journalists, and authors. According to USA Today, the average age of the Dreamers is 25, the average age when they came to the U.S. is six. Ninety-seven percent of the Dreamers are working or enrolled in school. 900 currently serve in the military. The percentage of DACA enrollees who have had their status revoked because of criminal or gang activity – 0.2 percent.
So why are President Trump and his supporters so passionate about sending these young people back to countries that they have no connection with and no memory of? What threat do they represent to his base? They are not taking jobs from others. They are earning their way and making valuable contributions to society. This is a success story that we should be celebrating. Instead we must hope that change will come and Dreamers will finally be able to take a deep breath and get a good night’s sleep.
Top Shutterstock photo: : WASHINGTON, DC – SEPT. 9, 2017 – Demonstrators at the White House protest President Trump’s decision to phase out DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, affecting 800,000 “Dreamers.”