Enacted in 2012 under the Obama administration, DACA provides a safeguard for Dreamers across the United States from deportation and allows them to work legally. Yet ten years later, there have been no enhancements to the policy, and is now at a heightened risk of being overturned by federal courts.
Alejandra Gonzalez, a DACA recipient, fled the deadly cartels that massacred her cousin in her hometown of Michoacán in the southern part of Mexico. Living undocumented for twenty years, the DACA policy became an immediate relief from the consistent fear of deportation. After being able to obtain college funds and scholarships, and now working legally in the United States she reaches the same standard as an American citizen, paying taxes, working, and contributing to the economy.
While to the eyes of onlookers this may seem to be the perfect solution, it is only a “band-aid” solution Alejandra says. Since the enactment in 2012, 1.8 million immigrants qualify for protection (Boundless), yet only 800,000 have become DACA recipients (Migration Policy Institute). With legal fees and $500 application costs many Dreamers can’t afford, there is still a large population at risk of deportation. As of today, there are around 600,000 DACA recipients. (Boundless). With the decreasing number of recipients year by year, many are forced to forfeit their protection status because of minimal opportunity.
Furthermore, the two-year expiration dates force this policy to only be a temporary solution, which leads to a greater issue. When reapplying for DACA, there must be proof of employment or your protection status is rescinded. Foregoing the limited protection they had and now forcing them into the position of an illegal, undocumented immigrant and the possibilities of deportation. During the pandemic, when 16.9 million people were left unemployed (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), USCIS, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, delayed the process of reapplying for DACA. Creating a backlog with high wait times for people to obtain legal work permits, leaving many immigrants unemployed and creating an inferior situation in which they could not provide for their families. More so, many DACA recipients, including Alonso Reyna Rivarola (pictured in the image below), the current senior director of institutional equity at Salt lake Community College, send money back to their families in their country of origin. This trickle-down effect not only affects a single individual in the U.S. but has roots in other countries.
While Obama attempted to introduce the Dreamers Act which would create a pathway for citizenship, it failed to pass the Senate and now, the future of DACA seems doubted after recent court disputes. After Andrew Hanen, a Republican judge of the district court of appeals for the fifth circuit found the DAPA policy which provides protection for undocumented parents of citizens unconstitutional, a similar ruling could be found for DACA. This month, as the District Court of the fifth circuit prepares to hear oral arguments on the current status of DACA, Republican-led states argue that because of the similar states of both DACA and DAPA, the presiding judge, Andre Hanen must also find DACA unconstitutional. As analysts have claimed, this case has a high chance of reaching the Supreme Court, and given the current conservative majority panel as well as the recent majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, demonstrating the radical outcomes from some of the Justices, DACA could very likely be struck down. Putting over 600,000 Dreamers at risk of deportation, some of who have families and roots here, or are in fatal danger in their countries of origin. During political turmoil, we’re quick to analyze this as a political and economical issue, profiling immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” Trump declared. Yet when do we humanize this and put humanity first for these families that are equal contributors to the U.S. when compared to American citizens?
While the United States has not pushed for anything permanent in regards to further protection for immigrants, it takes advantage of their vulnerable status and two-year expiration dates, as it represents a form of taxation without representation. As Alonso himself puts it, an “underground economy”. The government is able to reap the financial gains from the taxes 600,000 DACA recipients pay, while none can vote nor relish the same opportunities citizens have. Many DACA recipients are not accepted by employers because they are not accustomed to their documentation. This provides a financial opportunity for the government while suppressing their voices that otherwise may vocalize these issues. It creates a silenced working class that Alonso describes as “toxic”, also voicing his critique on the government relying on the work of undocumented people to sustain the economy. Intentions that date back to the institution of slavery.
While it becomes clearer that the DACA policy may not have a secure future. In the 1980s, the United States initiated the wet feet dry feet policy providing protection for all Cubans that escaped to the U.S.. It was only rescinded in 2017 by President Obama. Alonso proposes a similar action by the government that protects immigrants fleeing South American countries. Yet, with the government’s resistance in passing new legislation that will permanently protect Dreamers from deportation sheds more insecurity on their safety. Creating a fearful future where DACA recipients may not be included in the diverse vision of the United States.