On September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He gave Congress a deadline for coming to a decision on immigration reform, including the status of DACA recipients (often referred to as “Dreamers"). President Trump told Congress they must enact legislation by March 5, 2018, and it seemed that the entire country rose up in defense of Dreamers, with protests erupting in cities across the United States. Yet the March 5 deadline has come and gone, and Dreamers have not been collectively deported or jailed. So what happened to the deadline, and what does the future hold for DACA recipients?
The DACA program was created during Obama’s presidency, granting certain rights—including the right to work—to children of immigrants who were brought to America in their youth. DACA recipients must reapply every two years for their protected status as “Dreamers", lest they risk deportation. There are roughly 800,000 young people in America who are DACA recipients, and they have been shown to actually bring money into the US economy, not to mention that their status helps them pursue an education and contribute to our society. President Trump, however, in his hardline stance against illegal immigrants, asked Congress to preserve the DACA program or he would end it.
Still, even after President Trump issued this ultimatum for Congress, there were legal appeals opposed to his demand. On January 10th, 2018, a federal judge in California ruled that even though there were legal challenges over the DACA program, the program could still continue, which served as a temporary block to Trump’s promise to end the program. Then, on February 13, 2018, a federal judge in New York ruled that Dreamers could still re-apply for permits even though the previous deadline had passed. This second ruling also issued a nationwide injunction which blocked the Trump administration from ending the DACA program. Between these two decisions, it was clear that even if Congress failed to pass legislation, the DACA program would not end on March 5.
As the deadline approached, both Democrats and Republicans attempted to pass immigration reform and legislation that would address DACA and Dreamers. There was bipartisan support for protecting Dreamers and continuing the program, but when other issues on immigration were introduced (for example, the debate over President Trump’s demand for a border wall), the support crumbled. Congress failed to pass any legislation before the March 5 deadline—however, due to the court rulings in California and New York, the DACA program is still extant, and recipients can still re-apply for extensions.
As the congressional battle over immigration reform continues, much of the public’s focus has been on concerns over family separation and what to do with detained immigrant children, who have been housed in detention facilities near the border, then sent all over the United States. This issue has captured the attention and sympathy of the American public, and politicians have been urged to act, with both parties looking to agree on legislation that will end family separation and reunite children with their parents. With all the focus on immigrant families, the status of DACA recipients remains up in the air. All Dreamers can do is wait for Congress to come to a decision, while their status as legal citizens of the United States hangs in the balance.