Political pulse: What’s next for ‘dreamers’

Maggie Randall

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy will be rescinded in six months, according to a Sept. 5 announcement from President Donald Trump’s administration.

DACA was created by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, during former President Barack Obama’s administration, to provide work authorization and temporary relief from immigration action. On Sept. 22, during a panel at the Brookings Institute, Napolitano explained that “DACA is an exercise of prosecutorial selection.”

When Obama announced the DACA policy through executive order in June 2012, he said that DACA recipients “are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

In March of this year, a Suffolk University and USA Today poll showed that 63 percent of registered voters believe Trump should protect Dreamers, individuals who were undocumented minors when they entered the United States, from being deported.

More recently, according to a Politico and Morning Consult poll conducted in early September, 60 percent of voters who “strongly approve” of Trump, want Dreamers to be able to stay in the United States.

State leaders have been at the forefront of protecting immigrants’ rights. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey spoke out against the rescission in a complaint filed on Sept. 6.

“Dreamers are Americans. They go to our schools, serve in our military, work and start businesses in our communities,” said Healey.

Healey is one of several other attorneys general who have led the charge in protecting immigrants’ rights. Just a day after Trump announced that he would rescind DACA, 16 states filed a complaint challenging the rescission. The case, New York v Trump, challenged the legality of Trump’s decision to rescind the policy.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data from the end of March, there are nearly 19,000 eligible DACA recipients living, working, and learning in Massachusetts.

Politico reported that 7,800 of these DACA recipients live in the Boston area. The Cambridge City Council unanimously passed an ordinance in early October that would “create a fund that would reimburse DACA application costs for Cambridge residents.”

The rescission has prompted Congress to act in protecting these more than 800,000 young people. Since 2001, there have been bipartisan efforts in nearly every Congress toward passing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Graham Cassidy (R-SC), have sponsored the DREAM Act (S.1615) again this past summer in response to Trump’s rhetoric threatening to end the program.

There has been little action on the bill since July. Even so, it is likely there will be more bipartisan effort to finally get the DREAM Act passed before March 5, when DACA is expected to end, according to a White House press release.

While DACA is not a legal status, the DREAM Act provides lawful permanent residence on a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Doris Meissner, the former Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, believes the employment authorization is the greatest achievement of DACA. California, for example, has the sixth largest economy in the world, and the largest share of DACA recipients. Meissner believes the rescission could have serious effects on their economy.

Carlos Guevara is the senior policy advisor at UnidosUS; an advocacy group focused on social issues facing Latinos. He pointed out that the Trump Administration’s actions are essentially a betrayal to thousands of individuals who were uncertain to come forward to announce their legal status, but trusted in the federal government.

Following Trump’s announcement to rescind DACA, Obama released a statement expressing similar sentiments on how the rescission breaks trust formed between the federal government and the immigrant community.

“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us,” said President Obama. “Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.”