By Elia Franco
On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a policy established in 2012 under the previous Obama administration. The program was put in place to shield 800,000 undocumented youth who entered the country as infants and children fromdeportation.
After rescinding the program, the Trump administration assigned Congress a deadline of six months to propose and pass a solution to the current issues facing this group of youth known as “DREAMERS.” While many bills have been proposed, currently no bill has been passed.
As of last month, according to United We Dream, an immigrant activist group, approximately 12,000 DACA recipients had lost their protection as their status expired. These numbers are expected to increase as more time passes by without a solution.
The issue is pressing for the future of these young people, many of whom know no other country but the United States as their own.
There are several pathways available for addressing possible solutions. One potential solution may lie in the Clean DREAM Act, which is the most direct and immediate solution to the pending issue. According to the DREAM Act of 2017 Bill Summary, the Clean DREAM Act will allow young undocumented immigrants to obtain a conditional permanent resident status. This status would allow DREAMERs to work legally and allow them to freely leave and re-enter the country.
Other members of Congress have introduced bills into the House of Representatives. Among these, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) introduced a bill known as the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy) Act. Unlike the DREAM Act, the BRIDGE Act does not provide a pathway toward a legal status. According to Jessica Taylor, lead digital political reporter for NPR, this bill would “codify the current DACA program into law and extend it for three years.” The problem that arises from this bill is that it does not provide an ultimate solution for the DACA issue; it merely serves to buy more time for Congress to come up with a permanent solution.
Furthermore, seeing as the validity of the status provided by the BRIDGE Act only lasts for three years, DACA recipients would continue to live with the same un- certainty they are currently facing: waiting to hear back from Congress while putting their lives on standby until a permanent solution is drafted.
In short, while this bill may be seen as a possible solution, it is not an ultimate solution and only delays Congress from acting to pass a bill that can ensure a definitive legal status for the DREAMERs.
While some may ardently support the idea that the mass deportations of these young people can be a viable solution, this is not the case. In fact, the deportation and removal of the hundreds of thousands of children and young adults from the country would have adverse effects on the country. One has but to take a short glance at the current state of the immigration courts to begin to understand that the issues go deeper than just making these DREAMERs disappear.
In an interview for PBS News, news correspondent and commentator John Yang spoke to immigration judge and President of the National
Association of Immigration Judges Dana Leigh Marks to discuss the current overwhelming immigration court backlog. When Mr. Yang asked about the effects of the Trump ad- ministration’s “stepped-up enforce- ment” in regard to the immigration case backlog, Judge Marks responded that “The courts are basically on the verge of complete—being completely overwhelmed and collapsing under the case load.” As the interview continued, Judge Marks expressed her concerns regarding the efficiency of the immigration courts if the DACA program were to completely disappear by March 2018.
Additionally, the disappearance of the DACA program and the DREAMERs would create an economic dent for the country. According to the Center for American Progress, statistics show that ending DACA, and thereby removing DACA recipients from the work force, would cost the United States an estimated annual GDP loss of $433.4 billion in the next ten years.
As much as some members of Congress may attempt to make the current situation seem trivial, that is not the case. The larger effects go beyond economics and politics— people’s lives are at risk.
The delay in the passage of a Clean DREAM Act is currently affecting DACA recipients who have an up- coming permit expiration date, those whose permit has already expired, and those whose renewal date never even fell into the renewal window issued by the Trump administration. At this point recipients cannot renew, meaning, they are currently at risk for being placed into deportation proceedings if picked up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
These people are Americans, being set apart only by the lack of a U.S. legal status. They know no other country but this as their own, some do not even know their native tongue. Yet, each day they carry on with their duties to provide for their families and themselves, even in the face of the unnecessary uncertainty being prolonged by Congress. Nonetheless, this must come to an end, Congress must understand that the passage of a Clean DREAM Act is
crucial, it is if not the fair thing to do, the necessary thing to do.
The passage of this bill is the only thing that can ensure a pathway to a legal status for these individuals. It will provide legality and thereby, true American freedom to indi- viduals who have been active and productive members of this society, furthering their ability to contribute to America’s growth. Passing a Clean DREAM Act is the most immediate and long-term solution to the current issue.