Legislation to Protect DACA Will Likely Contain Additional Border Security Measures
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By Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Known for his controversial decisions, President Donald Trump maintained this reputation on Sept. 5 by ordering an end to the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, calling it an “amnesty-first approach” and urging Congress to pass a replacement before he begins phasing out its protections in six months. Known as DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects unauthorized immigrants born after June 15, 1981 who were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and have been in the country since June 15, 2007 from deportation. DACA was recently extended to cover children who have been in the U.S. prior to January 2010.
Why DACA Raises Eyebrows
DACA is so contentious because the program was established by presidential executive order and not by congressional action. In a December 2014 lawsuit, Texas and 25 other states accused President Obama of ignoring federal procedures for changing rules and of abusing the power of his office by sidestepping Congress, according to The New York Times . A federal district court in early 2015 issued an order to block the initiatives from going forward while the legal case proceeded. An appeals court affirmed the ruling and added a broader one, saying that the program also exceeded Obama’s statutory authority. Because the Supreme Court split the decision 4-4 (due to one judge’s recusal), the case got remanded back to the highest appeals court and that decision was upheld. The ruling did not affect the millions of so-called DREAMers who already benefit from DACA guarantees provided in 2012; it only blocked new applicants from applying for a similar initiative to expand DACA.
By ordering an end to the program, Trump deposited responsibility for a solution in the laps of Congress. Unless they can draft and pass legislation during the six-month grace period, a good portion of the 800,000 and individuals in the DACA program would be eligible for deportation as early as March 2018. But despite broad and longstanding bipartisan support for measures to legalize unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, the odds of a sweeping immigration deal in a deeply divided Congress appeared long, according to The New York Times. Legislation to protect the DREAMers has also repeatedly died in Congress.
The DREAM Act
Many Democrats in Congress are pushing to quickly pass the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that would give green cards to those who came to the U.S. before they were 18. These DREAMEers would have to pass background checks and meet educational criteria. U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) told the San Diego Union-Tribune there are some border security measures that he would agree to in order to get the DREAM Act passed. However, Peters has his limits. “There’s border security, and there’s border security,” he said. “I’m certainly opposed to the wall.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) predicted on September 19 that a fix for some undocumented immigrants would have to be attached to increased border security, according to TheHill.com. “It is naive for us to believe we would get 12 Republicans to vote for DACA or DREAM Act without putting something on the table,” he told reporters. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said they had agreed with President Trump to attach a legislative fix to DACA to a border security package. Schumer added he is “very optimistic” that Democrats will still be able to get a “good deal” on a DACA fix paired with border security.