Tom McCarthy, The Guardian, June 16, 2017
The Trump administration has announced that it will leave in place nominal protections for young immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
But advocates warned that DACA recipients – known as Dreamers – remain under threat and said that “the time for action and resistance is now.”
The Department of Homeland security said on Thursday that a 2012 memorandum that created the DACA program “will remain in effect.”
The same statement announced a cancellation of executive branch efforts, begun under Barack Obama, to protect the immigrant parents of children who are US citizens or have permanent resident status. About four million people were believed to be affected.
The Dreamers program is smaller, with more than 750,000 applicants recorded by the start of 2017. Those youths, who under program guidelines would have arrived in the United States before age 16, are still in danger, advocates warned.
“It is not the case that Trump has saved DACA,” said Adam Luna, a spokesperson for United We Dream, the country’s largest immigrant youth advocacy organization.
“It is the case that immigrant youth have mounted a very steady campaign to promote DACA, and to build up the public case for it, which has always been strong. But [news reports] that DACA has been saved, or that Trump has saved DACA, are extremely misleading, because the program remains very vulnerable, and agents have been unleashed by Trump’s executive orders.”
Dreamers have already been deported under Trump, despite the policy which supposedly protected them. In the first such known case, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who had lived in the US since the age of nine, was detained in California in February and deported to Mexico without getting a chance to retrieve his active DACA permit.
After he was elected president, Trump signaled potential flexibility on the Dreamers program, despite his continuous incendiary rhetoric attacking immigrants on the campaign trail.
“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” Trump told Time magazine in an interview published in 2016. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream and a DACA beneficiary, voiced a call to action in the face of Trump’s latest attack on protections for immigrants.
“Our message to elected officials at the federal, state and local level is that if you are not actively enacting policies to protect immigrants from mass deportation and all people of color from out of control law enforcement, you are complicit in the Trump attacks,” said Martinez Rosas. “The time for action and resistance is now.”
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, the program to protect immigrant parents that was canceled on Thursday, was derailed last June, when the supreme court issued a split decision leaving in place a lower court ruling that blocked the program. In making his decision, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly took into account “the fact that DAPA never took effect, and our new immigration enforcement priorities,” a department statement said.
Immigrant advocacy groups had no prior warning of the policy shift, Luna said, but it did not land as a surprise.
“There hasn’t been a call with community leaders or anything like that, that we know of – which would have usually happened under the last administration,” he said. “As advocates and as people with deep ties in the community, we have not had an open line of communication with the administration on these issues. What we have seen is the administration, over and over and over again, increasingly making threats to undocumented people, and this is certainly not a surprise.
“Undocumented people in this county are extremely vulnerable under this administration. But folks are organizing and fighting back.”