In the past month, the Oval Office has announced plans to scrap DACA, spurring protests across the country. Since the President’s announcement, there has been little progress in Congress and parties are divided on the issue.
On Septermber 5, 2017 President Donald J Trump announced his intention to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. This decision prompted demonstrations of popular discontent across the country and even at the university itself. In order to understand the weight of this decision by the administration, one must not only understand DACA, but also the history of undocumented immigrant law both nation and statewide.
First of all, what exactly is DACA? DACA was a piece of policy implemented during the Obama administration through executive order. Essentially, DACA allows undocumented immigrants that arrived in the United States as children to apply for a renewable two-year period of deferred action on their immigration status. This deferred action lets individuals obtain work permit and live comfortably in the United States without fear of government retaliation.
There are three key tenets of this policy; first being the fact these immigrants must have come to the United States as children. The rationalization behind this is that these individuals had no say over whether they wanted to illegally enter the United States or not, and as a result have known no home their entire life other than this country.
Secondly, one must apply to be included into the DACA program. This ensures that felons and violent criminals do not enjoy protections within the United States. As a result, it can be shown that Dreamers protected by DACA are in no way, shape, or form more likely to commit crimes than the average American.
Finally, in order to apply, one must notify the government and inform them that they are in fact an illegal immigrant. There are currently 800,000 people enrolled in the program, which means that they openly notified the government that they were the government. As a result, if DACA is repealed, the Trump administration now has a database of illegal immigrants they could target for deportation.
In order to better understand the strong reaction against DACA repeal, one needs to look into the precedents set through past treatments of illegal immigrants by the American government. There are distinct constitutional protections in place that ensure illegal immigrants are still protected by the Constitution.
In 2001, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that fundamental rights such as the Fifth Amendment’s protection of due process of the law applied to all immigrants regardless of their legal or documentation status. This is due to the ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis which stated that illegal immigrants may not be held in prison indefinitely, and that incarceration may only occur if deportation to an accepting country can be shown to occur.
The fact that undocumented immigrants may receive in-state tuition is another major of contention in the DACA debate. Plyler v. Doe in 1982 decided that a state or locality cannot charge or fine undocumented immigrants in order to allow them into schools as preventing access to public education would be a violation of the fourteenth amendment’s equal protection clause. Therefore, it can be argued that a resident of a state should be allowed to receive in-state tuition regardless of documentation status under similar constitutional ground, yet at the same time this can be seen as a fundamentally different case as in-state tuition is not a fundamental right enjoyed by all citizens in all states.
As of this moment, the President has chosen to delay the enforcement of his decision for 6 months to allow Congress to take action before he does. There has been support from some Republicans but also outcry from both sides. House Speaker Paul Ryan in an interview stated that he did not support the repeal.
On Monday, a group of Senate Republicans released a new proposal for a new conservative DACA proposal. There are deep divides within the Senate on how best to approach the creation of a new bill and a proposal has yet to be accepted.