October 31, 2017

Congress, president continue to grapple with future of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program

As Congress weighs options for protecting those participating in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Trump added conditions to his support for any legislation addressing the status of DACA recipients.

DACA, established through executive action by President Obama in 2012, has allowed undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children to stay if they meet certain criteria. Nearly 800,000 individuals have participated in the program, which has allowed them to go to school, work and serve in the military without fear of deportation.

In September, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will end in March 2018, questioning the constitutionality of the program because it was implemented unilaterally by President Obama after Congress failed to approve legislation to provide for those who were brought here illegally as children. The decision gives Congress until March to pass a legislative fix.

While the president initially indicated that he supported extending the program if provisions strengthening border security were included in the legislation, he unveiled a long list of additional immigration requirements Oct. 8 that he wants to be part of any DACA bill.

The new list includes the funding and building of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, tightening up the asylum standards, and the hiring of an additional 370 immigration judges and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys. Other provisions on the list address action to be taken within the United States, including authorizing states and localities to help enforce federal immigration laws, curbing grants to sanctuary cities, strengthening law enforcement by hiring 10,000 more ICE officers and 300 federal prosecutors, ensuring swift removal of visa overstays, and requiring employers to use E-Verify to determination citizenship status of employees. In addition, the proposals would end extended-family migration by limiting family-based green cards to spouses and minor children.

Several bills have been introduced to provide a legislative solution for DACA recipients. These include S. 1615, the DREAM Act introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and eight others in the Senate, and H.R. 2440, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and 192 cosponsors in the House. The legislation would allow individuals who meet certain requirements to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually U.S. citizenship.

Another proposal, S. 1852, introduced by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), calls for more conditions to qualify for permanent status and a longer road to citizenship for those who qualify for the program created under its provisions.

The ABA, which has long supported the DREAM Act, is urging Congress to enact it or similar legislation that includes a path to lawful permanent residency and U.S. citizenship for undocumented persons who entered the country as minors and have significant ties to the United States, subject to a moral character requirement and security screenings.

 

Back to the October 2017 Washington Letter