Trump ends DACA — Will Congress save it?
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Donald Trump ended the Obama-era executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on Sept. 5. The immigration protection program will be phased out over time, giving Congress six months to save it.
DACA lets immigrant youth under 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children to apply for legal living and working status — provided they have no criminal record — and, crucially, to avoid deportation. The fee for initial applicants and annual renewals of DACA is $495, and program recipients also pay local, state and federal taxes just like native citizens.
So what are the prospects that Congress will pass a bill in time? There are currently four pending DACA bills in Congress, each with a slightly different take on the issue.
On July 20, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the Dream Act of 2017, S. 1615. Their bill would establish permanent residency for undocumented immigrant youth and a path to full citizenship.
In the House, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) introduced Recognizing America’s Children Act of 2017, H.R. 1468, on March 9: "The bill provides immigrants that have been vetted by The Department of Homeland Security with three pathways toward legalization: higher education, service in the armed forces or work authorization. Following a five-year conditional status, these immigrants would be able to reapply for a five-year permanent status."
Prior to that, Rep. Mike Coffman, (R-Colo.) introduced the Bridge Act, H.R. 496, in January. His bill "amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): (1) shall grant a three-year provisional protected presence to a qualifying alien, (2) may not remove the alien from the United States unless such protected presence is rescinded, and (3) shall provide such alien with employment authorization."
However, the Bridge Act does not provide a path to U.S. citizenship, according to Rhonda Rios Kravitz. The head of Alianza, a nonprofit group that advocates for DACA youth, Rios Kravitz likes the American Hope Act of 2017 that Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) introduced July 27 as the strongest of the four bills.
Gutiérrez's bill, H.R. 3591, would give "those with DACA and others who arrived in the United States as children a path to permanent legal status and eventual citizenship" in five years. Unlike the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017, the American Hope Act has only Democratic support now, which weakens it, Rios Kravitz said.
The prospects for the aforementioned quartet of DACA bills to pass through the House and Senate and get Trump's signature remain unclear. Reasons for such a gloomy forecast abound.
First, there are splits between conservatives and moderates in the GOP House and Senate. One example of these fractures is House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urging Trump to avoid repealing DACA, which he ignored.
Meanwhile, Democrats are unanimously opposed to Trump's domestic policy agenda. Their united stand against his failed bid to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act is a case in point.
Trump is also calling for additional immigration reform as part of saving DACA. After all, on the campaign trail, he insisted upon building a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico to stop immigration.
From the opposite side of the political aisle, Rios Kravitz is also calling for more reform to current immigration policy than just saving DACA. Since 2012, about 800,000 immigrant youth across the U.S. have entered the DACA program.
"We need to continue to protest and put pressure on politicians, to hold them accountable," she said, while noting the DACA renewal deadline is Oct. 5 for recipients whose applications expire between Sept. 5 and March 5, a process that cost $495 per person.
Rios Kravitz sees the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017 as having the best chance of making it to the president's desk. Whether Trump would sign that bill is another kettle of fish entirely.
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