By Rachel Puryear, Attorney at Law; with input from my friend Chester Ruiz – Career Advocate for Immigrants’ Rights, and Real Estate Extraordinaire
Finally, the United States has had a couple pieces of much-needed good news come down this week, both from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). On Thursday, the SCOTUS ruled 5-4 to refuse the to allow the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA. (The SCOTUS also ruled earlier this week in favor of extending civil rights protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.)
What is DACA?
The DACA program was created pursuant to an executive action implemented by President Obama in 2012. The policy allowed persons who were brought to the United States undocumented as children to apply for the program. Once approved for the program, they could have deportation action deferred for two years at a time, and on a renewable basis. Additionally, recipients of the program could receive a permit to work in the United States. Recipients must have entered the U.S. by age 16; be enrolled in high school or earned a diploma or GED, or be honorably discharged from the military; and must not have felonies or serious misdemeanors on their records; in order to maintain their eligibility for the program. Recipients must have also resided in the U.S. continuously since 2007, and be younger than age 31 in 2012 (born 1981 or later). The program allowed recipients to remain and work in the country they had come to know as their home, and more fully integrate into society.
An estimated 700-800,000 Americans are recipients of the DACA program, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Following the ruling, the USCIS has resumed renewing DACA for those already in the program, but is not accepting new applications for the program at this time.
According to research, DACA has improved wages and employment for recipients, as well as the mental health of DACA recipients and their children. Research also suggests that DACA has reduced poverty for households with undocumented immigrants. Not only is there no evidence to show that DACA recipients commit more crimes than U.S.-born people, but most research actually shows that immigrants actually generally commit fewer crimes than the U.S.-born. Economists believe that DACA does not have negative effects on the U.S. economy, and that DACA also does not negatively impact the labor market for the U.S.-born. Here in California, we have more DACA recipients living here than anyone else in the U.S. – so DACA has a large impact on our economy. An estimated tens of thousands of DACA recipients are working in our health care systems alone.
After Trump took office, several states began challenging DACA, beginning with Texas. The Attorney General then wanted to discontinue DACA, and claimed as a basis that President Obama had exceeded his authority in issuing the executive action creating DACA. When the SCOTUS ruled in favor of the DACA program this week, their reasoning was not actually about DACA itself – rather, the SCOTUS found that Trump had acted in a manner that was arbitrary and that was not justified, and that he had not come up with a sufficient plan to address the impact that terminating the DACA program would have on the country. (Economic, and otherwise. For instance, removing tens of thousands of health care workers alone – especially in a pandemic – would be disastrous.) Trump’s actions were therefore in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (which prohibits governmental agencies from acting arbitrarily and capriciously).
Accordingly, while this ruling is an awesome victory, we are also not out of the woods yet – the Trump administration could still try to end the program again. And new applications are still not being accepted for DACA at this time, even though about as many more people would qualify for DACA as are already recipients of the program. This is yet another of so many reasons to get out and vote this November, to vote out racist and anti-immigrant officeholders, and to vote in those who will work towards equality and fairness for all Americans regardless of their race, color, or immigration status.
Did you know that each month, about 75,000 Latino youths in America celebrate their 18th birthdays? That’s enough to swing a state. Or a few of them! Be sure to register to vote for the November election – if you registered before, check your voter registration status again. And encourage young people in your life, and those who may not vote regularly, to vote – so much is at stake. Register to vote, and check your voter registration status here.