Update: Can DREAMers Continue to Dream?

September 21, 2017


A few weeks ago, President Trump announced that he would reverse former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program allowed illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were children, often referred to as “DREAMers,” to apply for a study or work permit and to get other basic things such as a driver’s license.

Since President Trump’s announcement, he has been in discussions with Democratic leaders to see how DACA might become a permanent program, shocking many of his supporters and many other Republicans. While this deal is being worked on, protesters have been making their voices heard. Some gathered at a news conference where Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was planning to address the crowd about the government’s progress on DACA. She was met with loud protests and chants of “All of us, or none of us!” and “We are not a bargaining chip!” Ms. Pelosi left without making any remarks. What else has happened since President Trump made his announcement? Six DREAMers filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the repeal of DACA, and sixteen separate states have done the same. We’ll just have to wait and see if Democrats can pull together a Dream Act that will satisfy all of the parties involved.

What does it mean to dream? To some, a dream can be a fantasy like becoming Superman! To others, a dream is a bunch of thoughts that happen while you sleep. But for a certain group of DREAMers, their dream is something bigger and more important.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama created a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under DACA, people who were brought to the United States illegally as children could work, study, and live legally in the United States after they had been cleared by the government. What would this entail? A thorough investigation of any criminal activity or possible threat to national security, and confirmation that these people either were students, had graduated from school, or had served in the military. In other words, the government would make sure that these people were doing good and productive things! As a result, these people would be allowed to stay in the United States for two years, and get basic things like a driver’s license and work permits. They would have to reapply for DACA status every two years to delay being deported.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with DREAMers who have received Deferred Action and U.S. citizen family members of undocumented immigrants, in the Oval Office, May 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

DACA was an order that former President Obama signed in 2012 after Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) repeatedly for 11 years. The Dream Act would have allowed children who were brought to the United States illegally a chance at permanent legal residency.

This week, President Trump announced that he would reverse DACA and begin the deportation process of Dreamers in March of 2018. New applications will no longer be accepted, and expired DACA-related permits will not be reissued. What else? He has given Congress six months to come up with an alternative solution.

Protest after announced repeal of DACA By Harrie van Veen via @Flickr CC By 2.0

People across the country protested President Trump’s decision, arguing that Dreamers add value to the country by working and educating themselves, and that they are being forced to leave the only country they’ve ever known. After all, they did not choose to come to the United States—they were children! Former President Obama has called President Trump’s decision “cruel.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican Senator John McCain, and most of the Democrats in Congress agree that reversing DACA is not the right thing to do. Large corporations and even celebrities have spoken out against the president’s action. However, President Trump is moving forward on a promise he made to his supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign—that promise was to reverse DACA. To Trump’s supporters, the reversal of DACA was long overdue. After all, to them, Dreamers are illegally living in the United States and taking jobs away from American citizens.

As Congress struggles to find a solution, approximately 800,000 Dreamers (that’s about the population of San Francisco!) are at risk of being deported. What do you think Congress should do?