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Obama on DACA anniversary: Let’s treat Dreamers like the Americans they are

Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster
Former President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former President Obama said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was still “vulnerable” to politicians who choose to ignore its “remarkable benefits” to the U.S.

In an emailed statement on the program’s 10th anniversary, Obama said that while the program was always meant to be temporary, Dreamers had to live through the cruelty of the previous administration’s attacks and legal challenges to the program, their families and their communities.

The former president added that he is renewing his call for Congress to offer Dreamers a path to citizenship.

“Let’s honor these Dreamers and everything they’ve done to strengthen our country. Let’s treat them like the Americans that they are. And let’s do everything we can to help build a common sense immigration system that honors our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” he said.

DACA was implemented during the Obama administration in an effort to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors after the then-president’s legislative attempts to modernize the immigration system failed.

Since then, DACA has seen several challenges. The Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to end the program on procedural grounds in 2020. Next month, a case over DACA will head to court in Texas, where the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments against the program.

According to Obama, many of the undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were very young did not know they were undocumented until they applied to college or tried to enlist in the military.

“And not only did a piece of paper suddenly stand in the way of their aspirations, it added a threat of deportation to a country they might not know, with a language they might not speak,” he said.

He added that the Obama administration made it possible for them to apply for work authorization and protection from deportation through DACA.

Obama said that the program recipients were able to stop living in fear and instead live freely in the only country they know.

“It lifted the shadow of deportation from people of extraordinary promise. And the results—for them and for us all—cannot be denied,” he added.

He added that these Dreamers now face increasing challenges and that only a quarter of the undocumented students graduating high school this year are eligible for DACA under existing rules.

More than 800,000 people have received DACA since the program’s inception, including 200,000 people who served as front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Obama said.

A White House official told The Hill that it will host more than 20 Dreamers on Wednesday for discussions on preserving DACA protections.

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