A Dream Deferred: The Future of DACA

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Just one month ago, the Trump administration issued an ultimatum. March 5, 2018 is the death date for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and the birthdate of a new era in immigration policy.

DACA is a policy enacted in 2012 by the Obama administration, in which illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors have sound, two-year renewable protections. These protections include deferred action from deportation and work permit eligibility.

Since its inception, DACA has shielded nearly 800,000 from deportation.1 These protections are not open to everyone: DACA recipients must have entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and be under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012.

Additionally, recipients must have a GED, high school diploma, be enrolled in school or have been honorably discharged from the armed forces. Moreover, recipients face travel restrictions and have no real path to obtaining a green card or citizenship—for many, DACA is the only way to legitimize their presence in America.

The decision to end DACA is not popular among universities, who often count DACA recipients among their students.

The University of California sued the Trump administration in response to the rescission of DACA.2  The current UC president, Janet Napolitano, signed the original DACA directive as secretary of the Department for Homeland Security. The Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA has previously released research reports documenting the positive impact of DACA on Latino students.3,4

President Michael McRobbie of Indiana University also expressed his disappointment in the decision.

In a statement, McRobbie said “Ending the DACA program will undermine IU's ability to educate our students to prepare them for a lifetime of informed and active global citizenship.”5 IU currently maintains a website to aid DACA recipients with applying for renewal, finding an attorney, locating financial aid, and other services”.12

Even with this kind of support, it is not easy for DACA students to go to college. DACA recipients who pursue higher education are ineligible for most forms of financial aid. Indiana currently bars in-state tuition for DACA recipients, but policy analyses from the Journal of the Student Personnel Association at Indiana University6 and the Indiana University Graduate Research Journal suggest that enacting in-state tuition and creating private scholarships would expand college access for DACA recipients.5,6

As of September 13, Trump has expressed support for passing legislation to protect current DACA recipients from deportation.8

Multiple bills are currently in consideration as alternatives to DACA, including the BRIDGE,9 RAC,10 DREAM,11 and SUCCEED12 Acts.7,8,9,10 The BRIDGE Act is most similar to DACA, and is essentially a congressional continuation of the existing program. DACA models many of its requirements and protections from the DREAM Act, which outlines a process for undocumented immigrants to apply for permanent residency. The RAC also allows for a way to permanent residency; however, it also allows the government to rescind legal status should recipients leave school or become unemployed.

This week, Republicans revealed the SUCCEED Act, a merit-based alternative to DACA. Although the bill provides a path to lawful residency, it also expands the eligibility requirements for protections to include the ability to pay off federal taxes and a thorough background check.

The identity of DACA’s successor will determine the future of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. As to what happens next for these young dreamers, we will find out next spring.

Title image courtesy of DACA@IU

  1.  Krogstad, J. (2017, September 1). DACA has shielded nearly 790,000 young unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/01/unauthorized-immigrants-covered-by-daca-face-uncertain-future/
  2. University of California sues Trump administration on unlawful repeal of DACA program. (2017, September 8). Retrieved from https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/university-california-sues-trump-administration-unlawful-repeal-daca-program

  3. Huber, P. H.; Villanueva, B. P.; Guarneros, N.; Vélez, V.N.; & Solórzano, D. G. (2014). DACAmented in California: The impact of the deferred action for childhood arrivals program on Latina/OS. UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.chicano.ucla.edu/files/RR18.pdf

  4. Patler, C. & Cabrera, J. A. (2015). From undocumented to DACAmented: Impacts of the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program three years following its announcement. University of California Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Retrieved from http://www.chicano.ucla.edu/files/Patler_DACA_Report_061515.pdf

  5. McRobbie, M. (2017, September 5). Indiana University statement on decision to end DACA.
    Retrieved from https://news.iu.edu/stories/2017/09/iu/releases/05-daca-statement.html

  6. Holthaus, G. Núñez, A. (2017). In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students: A Policy Analysis. Journal of the Student Personnel Association at Indiana University. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/jiuspa/article/view/23697/29414

  7. Bell, K.W. (2014) Policy Options for Undocumented Students. Indiana University South Bend Graduate Research Journal. Retrieved from https://josotl.indiana.edu/index.php/iusbgrj/article/view/12756/19129

  8. O’Keefe, E. & Nakamura, D. Trump, top Democrats agree to work on deal to save ‘dreamers’ from deportation. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/09/13/trump-top-democrats-agree-to-work-on-deal-to-save-daca/?utm_term=.e8976e172a7b

  9. Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act or the BRIDGE Act, S.3542, 114th Cong. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/3542

  10. Recognizing America's Children Act, H.R.1468, 115th Cong. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1468/text

  11. Dream Act of 2017, S.1615, 115th Cong. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1615

  12. SUCCEED Act, S.1852, 115th Cong. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1852