Congress must pass the Dream Act

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When President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Sept. 5, 2017, he said that he was giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution. Since then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), and others have maintained that Congress has until March 5, 2018, before DACA recipients will face any negative repercussions from Trump’s decision to end DACA. We should know by now not to trust anything Trump says.

The truth is that Dreamers cannot wait until March. Because of the way that President Trump ended the program, approximately 22,000 DACA recipients already will have lost protection by March. On average, 122 DACA recipients have been losing protection every day. By Christmas, an estimated 13,500 DACA recipients already will have lost protection. If Congress passes a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through Jan. 19 but does nothing for Dreamers, an additional 3,400 young people will become vulnerable to detention and deportation. Contrary to the promises of McConnell and others, young people like Osman Enriquez, who was separated from his infant child and placed in immigration detention last week after he lost DACA, are already feeling the consequences.

{mosads}The president’s termination of DACA has also put tens of thousands of additional children at risk of detention and deportation. According to the Migration Policy Institute, if not for the president’s decision to terminate DACA, 23,000 children would have turned 15 years of age and become eligible to apply for DACA between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018. These are children like Rosa Maria Hernandez, the 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was arrested and detained by border patrol agents in the hospital when she was recovering from emergency surgery. These young children cannot wait any longer for Congress to act.

By rushing to end DACA, the administration also created a bureaucratic mess that is preventing some DACA recipients who filed timely renewal applications to face tremendous uncertainty. The administration gave 154,000 DACA recipients just 30 days in which to get their renewal applications in to the Department of Homeland Security. Because of slow or unreasonable adjudications, thousands of applications that were mailed on time were incorrectly treated as untimely, and other applications were rejected belatedly for clerical mistakes. Brittany Aguilera of New York is one such person who has now lost DACA because she inadvertently failed to sign one document, and the government did not allow her to correct the error until after the deadline had already passed.

Importantly, as destructive as the present moment is, beginning on March 6, hundreds of thousands of additional DACA recipients will begin losing protection. They are already facing enormous stress today, as they cannot make life plans that the rest of us take for granted. The consequences of losing DACA are profound. The average DACA recipient came to the country at the age of six and nearly three-quarters have a spouse, child or sibling who is a U.S. citizen. Losing DACA means losing the confidence that comes from knowing the next knock on your door won’t from be an immigration enforcement officer who will take you into custody and deport you from the only country that you call home.

Because losing DACA means losing work authorization — and every employer knows the date on which a DACA recipient’s work authorization document expires — losing DACA also means being fired from one’s job. In nearly every state, losing DACA means losing one’s drivers license. In many states, losing DACA means that currently enrolled and prospective students may be unable to access higher education. In South Carolina, for instance, DACA students currently enrolled in public colleges and universities likely will be forced out of school when their DACA expires. In Virginia, the expiration of DACA will prevent thousands of DACA students from being allowed to pay in-state tuition rates.

Congress must pass the bipartisan Dream Act by the end of the year, without further delay, to ensure that Dreamers can continue to work, study and thrive without fear of deportation. If Congress does not, and instead members go home for the holidays having passed another spending bill without permanent protections for Dreamers, it will have appropriated funds that will be used to deport Dreamers, plain and simple.

Tom Jawetz is vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress.

Tags Citizens Congress Democrats Donald Trump Dreamers Immigration John Cornyn Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Politics Republicans White House

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