Dreamers in Distress: Controversy Surrounding DACA

Mia Mikki, Reporter

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Among the more controversial actions our nation’s leader, President Donald J. Trump, has enacted over the term of his office, few were met with the strong criticism and backlash aimed in protest as the executive decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, more commonly known as DACA.

But before diving into the controversy surrounding the issue, it’s important to understand the major points surrounding DACA and who exactly is protected by the program.

I had the unique opportunity to interview Stacey B. Slater, Pro Bono partner at Nixon Peabody law firm, and ask her a couple of questions to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the requirements, reasons for, and misconceptions about DACA.

 

Q: Could you start off by introducing yourself and explaining a little bit about what you do as a

Bono partner at Nixon Peabody (NP)?

A: Of Course! My name is Stacey Slater and I manage NP’s Pro Bono programs. Pro Bono means “for the public good” meaning the cases I take on are voluntary and without payment. It’s service where professionals can provide services to those who are unable to afford them. I’ve successfully represented several refugee clients seeking asylum in the United States. I also regularly help victims of domestic violence to complete U Visa applications and have helped clients to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. It’s great that you reached out to me to find out more about DACA, that’s my field of expertise!

 

Q: That’s great, so could you give us a general overview of what exactly DACA is?

A: Well, DACA is an immigration policy that allowed undocumented individuals who entered the country as minors and had remained in the country illegally to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. The rationale behind this was motivated by an attempt to not punish children who had grown up in the United States and have them deported back to their country of origin because of the mistakes of their parents.

 

Q: I see, so who exactly is eligible to be protected under DACA?

A: To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the US before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enacted the policy in 2012. DACA’s core recipients often called Dreamers because it came from the proposed DREAM Act, which offered legal status in return for attending college or joining the military. It was first introduced in 2001 and the name stuck.

 

Q: Other than protection from deportation, are there any other benefits which dreamer receive?

A: Yes, actually. DACA recipients have been able to obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs. But it’s not all a free ride though, they also pay income taxes and the program doesn’t give applicants a way to become US citizens or even legal permanent residence which is something immigrant rights advocates have criticized. It kind of leaves people in limbo.

 

Q: If someone wishes to apply for DACA what exactly would they have to provide?

A: Well after first meeting the requirements, a potential applicant would have to provide evidence they were living in the United States, proof of education and confirmation of their identities. They would have to pass background, fingerprint and other checks which confirm identifying biological features. finally, they would have to pay a $495 fee to process their applications. It also cost $495 to apply for renewal every two years, something that immigrant rights activist say can prohibit many from receiving protection from DACA

 

Q: I see. So could you explain what exactly President Trump rescinding DACA means?

A: Over the summer, 10 state attorneys generals wrote to the President asking him to end DACA and told him action needed to be taken by September 5. Their message was essentially, rescind DACA, or prepare for a legal challenge from us. And constitutionally, there really isn’t much to support the existence of DACA, so even if the matter were to go to court, it would be extremely difficult to defend.

 

Q: But why did the state attorney generals want to end DACA?

A: Many groups generally advocate for stricter immigration controls, and many believe DACA is an example of an executive overreach, or the President taking too much liberty with lawmaker’s decisions. Some argue DACA almost provides amnesty for lawbreakers.

 

Q: Ah, so now that DACA is ending what does that mean for individuals already protected by

DACA?

A: For current DACA recipients, protections remain in effect, but only for now. Work permits issued under DACA will be honoured until they expire and new DACA applications that were received by September 5 and renewal applications received by October 5 will be processed. But after the two years are up, the protection will cease and everyone is unsure what exactly will happen to DACA recipients.

 

Q: Now that the deadline for submitting applications is over, there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding what would happen to applications which had gotten delayed in the mail, do you know what would happen to those individuals?

A: At least 4,000 applications which were delayed and rejected due to slow service will be reconsidered, but I’ve also heard stories of applications are being rejected because of people who sent their checks in and The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, (USCIS), telling them their checks were invalid. Applicants would send another check, but then USCIS would say the check came in too late to process. These just seem to be excuses where the rejection wasn’t something to do with the Postal Service, but rather USCIS and DHS trying to find ways to deny applications.

 

Q: Isn’t there any backlash from Dreamers on this?

A: There definitely is and six dreamers even sued the Trump administration for Trump’s decision to end DACA under the claims that it violated their rights to equal protection and due process. But until March when the protection ends it’ll be hard to accurately gauge what exactly the fate of the Dreamers will be, whether that be continued allowance to reside in the U.S. or deportation back to their country of origin.

 

Q: Wow. I really learned a lot today, thank you so much for taking the time to talk and explain everything to me.

A: Of course! It’s really important for young people to be aware of current events and seeing as DACA does affect individuals your age, it’s even more important!

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