The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an immigration policy started by the Obama Administration in 2012. The purpose is to allow qualified undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a two-year renewable period from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. While DACA allows students to finish school it does not provide a path to citizenship. To be eligible, minors must meet the following criteria:
- Entered the US prior to their 16th birthday and before June 2007
- Currently enrolled in school, a high school graduate or have been honorably discharged from the military
- Under age 31 as of June 15, 2015 and have no felony convictions, misdemeanors, or in any way pose a threat to national security or public safety.
This legislation was first introduced in 2001 as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) which was a multi-phase process for undocumented immigrants in the United States that would grant conditional residency.
The DREAM Act was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch. There have been several proposed iterations of this bill, but they failed to pass. Senator Durbin continues to support DACA. He and Senator Graham continue to fight for the protections of immigrants working towards achieving an education in the US.
With campaign threats of the President-elect, there has been discussion of how to protect these students in the new administration. Durbin (D-IL) and Graham (R-SC) just this past Friday unveiled the Bridge Act. This temporary legislation is aimed at allowing those who have applied for temporary relief from deportation and for work authorization through DACA to continue to live in the United States, work legally, and attend school without fear of deportation. This would protect over 750,000 immigrants by providing provisional protection until the bill is reintroduced in the Senate in 2017.
The co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). As these senators look for more sponsorship, they are striving to announce support in pairs- one Democrat, and one Republican. If the bill doesn’t pass, at the very least it may put pressure on the new administration to leave this alone.
As of this week, over 500 university presidents and chancellors have signed a letter in support of DACA and the Bridge Act. At the very least, they have agreed not to act as whistle-blowers of undocumented students.
I am encouraged by the legislation, which I didn’t know much about before the presidential election. I am also encouraged by the bipartisan support for these students. We haven’t seen much bipartisanship, so this is good.
And finally I’m encouraged by so many university leaders standing up to support immigrant students who want the opportunity for a college education in the US.
These are my reflections for today.