As the United States Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, otherwise known as the “Dream Program”, marks its fifth anniversary, Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke is urging the United States Congress to pass legislation that would grant permanent status for Caribbean and other “Dreamers.”
“Since DACA was created in 2012, more than 750,000 young women and men have used the program to expand their participation in our civil society, attend college, and start careers, all in the pursuit of the American Dream. Their contributions have been invaluable and their remarkable stories are now stitched into the fabric of this nation,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.
“But the DACA program remains under threat,” Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn told Caribbean Life on Saturday. “DACA recipients have been unlawfully arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and needlessly detained.
“We cannot, in good conscience, allow Donald Trump to undermine their expectations or diminish their contributions,” she continued. “Congress must act to secure their permanent status in the United States.”
According to new memorandums issued by the Trump administration Thursday night, President Trump will not immediately eliminate protections for the so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children.
But White House officials said on Friday that Trump had not made a decision about the long-term fate of the program and might yet follow through on a campaign pledge to take away work permits from the immigrants or deport them.
However, the US Department of Homeland Security has announced that it would continue the Obama-era program intended to protect those immigrants from deportation and provide them with work permits so they can find legal employment.
A fact sheet posted on the department’s website says that immigrants enrolled in the 2012 program, “will continue to be eligible” to renew every two years, and notes that “no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”
A news release from the department said flatly that “the June 15, 2012, memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect.”
But officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Friday that those statements were intended only to clarify that immigrants enrolled in the DACA program would not immediately be affected by a separate action officially ending a similar program for undocumented immigrants whose children are citizens or legal permanent residents, according to the New York Times.
“There has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the department.
He added that John F. Kelly, DHS secretary, “has noted that Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue.”
Immigration rights activists, who have fiercely battled Trump’s travel ban and increased enforcement of other immigration laws, initially hailed the announcement, calling it a surprising turn of events from Trump, the Times said.
“This is a big victory for Dreamers amid months of draconian and mean-spirited immigration enforcement policy,” said David Leopold, an immigration lawyer. “The preservation of DACA is a tribute to the strength of the Dreamer movement.”
But after the White House clarified its intent, activists expressed regret, according to the Times.
Leopold said in a second statement that “it’s no surprise that Trump would quickly walk back the preservation of DACA.”
Leopold said the Trump administration was trying to “cynically pit 800,000 Dreamers against the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.”
A decision to maintain the DACA program would be a reversal from Trump’s anti-immigrant language during the campaign and would disappoint some of the president’s most ardent supporters, who view the program started President Obama as an illegal grant of amnesty, the Times said.
It said that, during the campaign, Trump repeatedly agreed with that sentiment.
At one rally last summer, Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” the program, saying that Obama had “defied federal law and the Constitution,” the Times noted.
But once in office, it said Trump faced a new reality: the political risks of targeting for deportation a group of people who are viewed sympathetically by many Americans.
In some cases, the immigrants did not know they were in the country illegally, the Times said, adding that many attended American schools from the time they were in kindergarten.
Asked repeatedly about his intentions for the program since he took office, the president has hinted that he would not try to deport the Dreamers.
But immigration activists had remained worried that the administration might still eliminate the program, the Times said.
It said that the announcement that the DACA program will continue for the time being, a decision that affects about 800,000 people in the United States, came as the Trump administration formally ended Obama’s attempt to expand it to also cover the parents of Dreamers.
In 2015, Obama proposed an expansion of the program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which could have shielded as many as five million people from deportation and provided work permits to them as well, the Times said.
But it said that program was never put in place because a Texas court blocked it at the request of a coalition of 26 state attorneys general.
The Supreme Court deadlocked, 4 to 4, on a challenge to that ruling, but the decision by the Trump administration officially ends the litigation, the Times said.