By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Millions of children illegally entered the United States with their parents. Years later their legal status is still in legal limbo. The United States Congress has been debating legislation since 2001.
On 23 February, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a Lenten “call to U.S. Catholics and people of good will across the nation to take part in a ‘Call-in-Day’ on February 26 for the Protection of Dreamers.” Detailed instructions provided on their website make it possible for U.S. citizens to contact their Representative and Senator on behalf of Dreamers. The U. S. Bishops want the country’s legislators to consider providing a bi-partisan and humane legal solution for Dreamers that: 1) protects them from deportation; 2) provides a way for them to become U.S. citizens; and 3) that immigration legislation proposals keep immediate families intact.
President Obama provided a solution: DACA
After several failed attempts to pass the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), President Obama formed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program using an executive order. This program allows those in this situation to apply for protection from being deported as long as their legal status still remains uncertain. Those eligible to apply for DACA are adults who had not yet turned 31 in June 2012, who were younger than 16 when they entered the U.S., who had earned a high school diploma, and who had no criminal record. DACA recipients are called Dreamers. While not providing legal status, enrollment in the program does guarantee a two-year, renewable, “deferred action” from deportation and makes the person eligible for a work permit. There are currently 800,000 DACA recipients.
President Trump overturned DACA
Last September, the Trump administration announced that as of 5 March 2018, DACA would be phased out. No new applications would be granted, and DACA renewals were severely limited. In January 2018, a San Francisco district judge, William Aslup, ruled that the government had to uphold the DACA program nationally, and that local courts could decide how to enact President Trump’s order against DACA. In February, a second judge in Brooklyn, Nicholas Garaufis, also ruled that DACA could not be ended in March. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused the administration’s request that it rule on the lower court’s order, thus effectively blocking the Trump administration’s planned dismantling of DACA until it can work its way out in the lower courts.
What DACA recipients have received is a temporary reprieve. Those whose work permits have expired, or will expire soon, will be able to apply for renewal—as long as the lower court order is in force. However, this is not a permanent solution for them. Until Congress passes legislation they are still in limbo.