On Oct 23 2017 by Lisa T. Felix

DACA Recipients in Limbo as Trump Releases List of Demands

By Lisa T. Felix, Esq. and Steven R. Miller

A month ago, President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, once more hanging the threat of deportation over the heads of some 800,000 young immigrants.
Enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA gave temporary deportation reprieve and work authorization to young people brought to the United States as children who have grown up here and have no other clear path to legal status under current law.

Just a few days after issuing the six-month phase out of the program, Trump said he was close to a deal with Democrats on DACA, professing his “great love” for the program’s recipients. In a September 5 tweet and a subsequent conversation with Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, Trump suggested that he might be willing to extend the March 5 deadline to allow lawmakers to find a solution, but did not say how long that extension would be. Then, on October 8, the Trump administration released a list of demands that any potential legislation would need to meet in order to reach a deal that would continue to protect individuals currently covered by DACA from deportation. The list includes cutbacks in legal immigration and, according to a White House aide, a path to citizenship is not on the table.

Currently, Congressional Democrats, with some bipartisan support, have pinned their hopes to the DREAM Act—a piece of legislation first introduced in 2001 that would provide permanent legal status to about 1.6 million ’Dreamers,’ as they have come to be known. The bill has been reintroduced several times since it was initially proposed, but has failed to make it out of Congress and currently lacks the GOP support needed to put the bill to a vote. Lankford co-authored a conservative version of the DREAM Act, called the SUCCEED Act, which would instead offer conditional permanent resident (CPR) status to Dreamers through multiple, merit-based steps. These merits would include being employed, pursuing higher education, or serving in the military. The CPR would only last five years, but could be renewed for another five. Individuals could lose their status by committing a felony or serious misdemeanor, and after ten years, a Dreamer could then apply for lawful permanent resident status—known colloquially as a green card.

As with many of the public statements that Trump has made since beginning his campaign for presidency, there is a stark contrast between his current and past stance on DACA. In 2012, for example, he spoke to CNBC saying, “You have people in this country for 20 years, they’ve done a great job. They’ve gone to school, they got great marks, now we’re supposed to send them out of the country? I don’t believe in that.” On the campaign trail, he expressed a opposite view, claiming that he would “immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration.” Then, at a February 2017 press conference held soon after he took office, Trump said, “We are going to deal with DACA with heart,” noting that the issue was difficult for him because, “I love these kids.”

The consequences of revoking the protections granted by DACA extend beyond the turmoil into which so many individuals’ lives would be thrown. Data from a 2017 study sponsored by the Center for American Progress indicates that approximately 97 percent of DACA recipients are currently employed or enrolled in school. The progressive public policy research and advocacy organization estimates that ending DACA would deprive the United States of more than $460 billion in economic growth over the next decade. Clearly, as Trump himself has acknowledged, the vast majority of DACA recipients are using the program to attain an education and establish lives as thriving contributors to the economy and society. The United

States would suffer an equal parts deficit in tax revenue and talent should the hundreds of thousands of young people who have been given a chance to secure their standing as Americans under DACA be forced to return to countries they never really called home. Despite vocal objections from the public and prominent figures in business and politics alike, the Trump administration appears intent on using DACA protections as a bargaining chip, no matter how high the stakes.

The deadline for DACA recipients to renew applications that are set to expire before March 5 passed on October 5. Any recipient whose status expires after March 5 is in immigration limbo, as Trump has put the onus on Congress to come up with a solution. With his administration’s recently released list of hardline demands, Trump is essentially holding the kids he professed to love hostage. A deal seems unlikely, as the demands include cuts to legal immigration, cracking down on sanctuary cities, and money to fund the border wall.


Reprinted with permission from the October 19, 2017 edition of the The Legal Intelligencer© 2017 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. 
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