ABA President Hilarie Bass urged Congress this month to quickly pass legislation to provide “a fair, orderly and safe way ahead” for those participating in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Trump has announced will end in March 2018.
DACA, established through executive action by President Obama in 2012, allows undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children to stay temporarily in the country if they meet certain criteria.
The nearly 800,000 individuals who have participated in the program have been allowed to go to school, work, and serve in the military without fear of deportation.
The announced suspension of the program without a ready legislative solution “threatens the future of thousands of deserving people to pursue their dreams, places them in danger of deportation, and threatens the country’s access to a wealth of human potential,” Bass said in a statement issued Sept. 5.
She noted that an open letter signed by hundreds of top business leaders pointed out that DACA participants, known as Dreamers, would contribute $460.3 billion to the gross national product and $28.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions over the next 10 years.
In addition, sending Dreamers back to a foreign country they do not remember is inconsistent with American values, she said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the decision to end DACA was made because the program was “implemented unilaterally after Congress failed to approve legislation to provide for those who were brought here illegally as children.” He said the administration believes the program would be found unconstitutional.
Congress now has until March to pass legislation to continue the program. Pending legislation includes the DREAM Act, — introduced as S. 1615 by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and eight others in the Senate — and H.R. 3440, 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 to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually U.S. citizenship if they:
●are longtime residents who came to the United States as children;
●graduate from high school or obtain a General Education Diploma (GED);
●pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least three years, or serve in the military;
●pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee;
●demonstrate proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of United States history; and
●have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country.
The ABA, which has long supported the DREAM Act and is urging Congress to preserve DACA, applauded DACA when it was created in 2012 and believes that immigration reform should include a path to lawful permanent residency or U.S. citizenship for undocumented persons who have significant ties to the United States while displaying good moral character and passing security screenings.
Meanwhile, 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Sept. 6 to protect DACA recipients. The lawsuit claims that the administration’s end to the program violates equal protection and due process under the Fifth Amendment.
DACA recipients fear that information they provided to the government to participate in the program, meant to remain confidential, could now be used to deport them and members of their families.