Is America the land of DREAMers?

Riley Preiss, Staff Writer

The DREAM Act, short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, is a bill in Congress that would have granted legal status to certain undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and educated here. Since 2001, there have been various versions of the bill; however, the law has failed to be passed by Congress every time. In recent years the term “DREAMer” has been adapted to describe undocumented immigrant children brought up and educated in the U.S. The term not only represents the bill but its double meaning, the idea that these kids aspire to have a better life, a better education, a more optimistic future, and essentially to live the “American dream.”

The latest version of the Dream Act, introduced in 2017, would facilitate the path to U.S. citizenship for people who are either undocumented, have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) or temporary protected status (TPS), in addition to those who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in the military. DACA, launched in 2012 by President Obama, has changed the lives of young immigrants in our country. They’ve received temporary permission to stay in the U.S., employment authorization, and the ability to reapply for employment permission in two-year periods. Though they still have a long road to go to receive permanent citizenship, that’s where the 2017 DREAM Act would have come into play. However, the Trump Administration signed an order ending support of the DACA program in September 2017, in an effort to increase immigration enforcement and crack down on illegal immigrants as their political campaign promised. They gave a six-month deadline to Congress to pass the legislation. Six months brings us to now… it’s March and the impending end of the program has led to demonstrations across the United States in support of DACA.

At the National Mall in Washington DC, signs sporting slogans like “Undocumented and UNafraid,” “Let My People Stay,” and “No Dream… No Deal” can be spotted.  A statement released from United We Dream, an organization that campaigns for undocumented youth, criticizes the recent efforts against DACA exclaiming that “Until now, Trump and Republican leaders have pulled Republican votes away from three bipartisan proposals to fix the crisis and have stood in the way of the Dream Act.” So far courts have blocked Trump’s order to end DACA protections. The U.S. Supreme Court decided last week not to hear arguments in a California case on the subject, leaving the program in place for those who have already applied. Currently more than 90 percent of DACA recipients are either employed or in school. And as commonly emphasized by immigrant advocates, less than one percent of recipients had their DACA statues rescinded due to illegal activity. “With the controversy across the country, immigrant youth and their allies are calling on the House of Representatives to pass a narrow and permanent solution to protect immigrant youth from deportation,” the Together We Dream statement said.  The White House is currently blaming the lack of administration on the Democratic Party. Trump tweeted out, “It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!” It has been disputed that Democrats have not made Dreamers enough of a priority in recent months despite the fact that they side with DACA.  

The controversy surrounding the DREAM Act is far from resolution. For 16 years now Democrats and Republicans have disputed and weighed the benefits and consequences of passing different variations of this law. This is definitely not the last you will hear of the DREAM Act, especially based on the current political climate of the United States and how long it takes for decisions to be made. DREAMs can be pretty unpredictable, especially in America, and we will just have to wait and see where this one leads us.

UPDATE (May 7, 2018): As of April 24, 2018, a federal judge has ruled that the protections of the 2017 DACA program must stay in place and that the government must resume accepting new applications. District of Columbia Judge John D. Bates determined that the Trump administration’s decision to terminate the program because it was “unlawful” is in his words, “virtually unexplained.” He deemed it “arbitrary and capricious because the department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.” This decision is to stay for 90 days (which will bring us to July) and in that time The Department of Homeland Security, the administrators of the program, is being given the opportunity to better explain its reason for cancelling it. If they fail to do so then the department “must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.” This decision comes as the third in recent months against Trump’s rollback of DACA (there had been two junctions issued by federal judges in San Francisco and Brooklyn), although this is the first in which the government is required to accept new applications to the program.

* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license