After months of dire and discouraging news around the world, I am excited today to see some positive headlines! This morning, the Supreme Court struck down the termination of the DACA Program. This is not the last word on this issue. SCOTUS ruled that the Trump administration ended DACA incorrectly; not that it doesn’t have the authority to end the program. Until Congress passes legislation to decide the fate of the “Dreamers,” this issue will come up again.

What is DACA?

You may be asking, “What is DACA? Who are Dreamers?”

This video from Sarah Quezada does a good job of explaining The DREAM Act, Dreamers, and DACA:

The first DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was presented in Congress in 2001, but has never passed. The purpose of the law was to provide protected status to specific immigrants who were brought to the U.S. without authorization when they were children.

In 2012, the Obama administration enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was meant to be a temporary protection until Congress passes legislation to address the issue. It did not provide a path for permanent legal status, but DACA allowed many young people to legally get drivers licenses, attend college, join the military, and start careers.

Then in 2017, the Trump administration terminated the program. That termination was challenged in court, and today the Supreme Court ruled that the abrupt end to the program was “arbitrary and capricious1“.

This ruling does not prevent the president from ending the program in the future. It simply states that the administration did not follow the proper channels in 2017. But for today, those 700,000 Dreamers have a temporary reprieve from the fear of deportation.

Who is protected under DACA?

Since DACA was implemented as a temporary measure in 2012, it only applies to a specific group of immigrants. DACA recipients must renew their applications every two years.

DACA recipients had to:

  • Be under age 31 as of June 15, 20122
  • Have arrived in the US before age 162
  • Have resided in the US continuously since June 15, 20072
  • Be physically present in the US and without legal status when DACA was instituted on June 15, 20122
  • Be currently in school, high school graduates or GED holders, or honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States2 (at the time they applied)
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor,or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety2.

For a more thorough explanation on DACA, see this Fact Sheet from the National Immigration Forum.

“The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Ezekiel 18:20

Now what?

It’s too soon to say what will happen next for Dreamers. The Trump Administration could try to immediately begin the process of ending the program again, or they could decide to leave it alone. Either way, DACA was never meant to be a permanent program. So ultimately it is the job of Congress to pass legislation to decide the fate of immigrants who arrived as children.

It’s hard to imagine the implications if Dreamers are denied any pathway to permanent residency. With over half a million recipients, now adults, affected by this action, there would be significant ripple effects. Many of these individuals have American citizen spouses and children; many work in essential jobs and pay taxes.

Beyond the economic impact of deporting such a large number of people, we also have to question if such an act would be just. These are people who did not choose to break any laws and who currently have no way to “legalize” their immigration status. They have lived in America for most of their lives, and it’s their home. Of course we have to create laws and restrictions around who is allowed to immigrate to our country, but let those laws be just.

I am celebrating the victory today, knowing that thousands of people can sleep a little lighter tonight. But I also continue to pray and reach out to my officials to ask that they take the chance to do this the right way. Let these people have a chance to become fully legal members of our society – they have so much to offer.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.'”

Zechariah 7:9-10

1 https://www.npr.org/2020/06/18/829858289/supreme-court-upholds-daca-in-blow-to-trump-administration

2https://www.uscis.gov/archive/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca#guidelines