A new Biden administration rule designed to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was welcomed by immigration advocates who quickly added that the Aug. 24 White House action is not enough to permanently safeguard Dreamers.
“The announcement of a new rule is a positive step, but challenges in the courts will persist. Dreamers’ livelihoods should not continue to rely on temporary measures that are subject to reversal,” said Ross Ashley, leader of the Council on National Security and Immigration. “Congress must pass legislation for DACA recipients and other Dreamers to allow them to earn permanent legal status in the U.S. and a pathway to eventual citizenship.”
The new rule, which takes effect Oct. 31, replaces the 2012 Obama administration memorandum that created the program to provide a lawful presence, the ability to work, own property and seek education to undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. as children and raised in what is the only country most have ever known.
The decade-old initiative has been under continuous legal assault, including an unsuccessful Trump administration bid to kill the program.
But Congress has yet to take any action to protect DACA recipients, popularly known as Dreamers, with legal residency or pathways to citizenship. As a result, the decade-old initiative has been under continuous legal assault, including an unsuccessful Trump administration bid to kill the program.
More recently, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of Texas and six other states seeking to overturn DACA. The decision allows currently enrolled immigrants to renew their status every two years but forbids the acceptance of new applicants.
While Biden’s initiative must also adhere to those limits, as a presidential rule it further shields the nation’s 800,000-plus current Dreamers from deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said. “Today, we are taking another step to do everything in our power to preserve and fortify DACA, an extraordinary program that has transformed the lives of so many Dreamers.”
In a statement released by the White House, President Biden said Dreamers deserve protection because they are crucial to their communities, to the U.S. workforce and military.
“Today, we are fulfilling our commitment to preserve and strengthen DACA by finalizing a rule that will reinforce protections, like work authorization, that allow Dreamers to live more freely and to invest in their communities more fully,” Biden said.
The president urged some lawmakers to reconsider their opposition to the American Dream and Promise Act.
“I will do everything within my power to protect Dreamers, but Congressional Republicans should stop blocking a bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers,” he said. “It is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do for our economy and our communities.”
That Dreamers are a boost to the U.S. economy has been demonstrated by numerous studies, including a 2021 Center for American Progress report that 343,000 DACA recipients hold jobs as essential workers, including 34,000 health care workers, 20,000 educators and 100,000 working in the nation’s food supply chain.
Dreamers paid $9.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes through July 30, 2021.
The same study found that Dreamers paid $9.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes through July 30, 2021, owned nearly 70,000 homes and possessed an estimated $25.3 billion in raw spending power.
“DACA has been a positive force not just for recipients but also for families and communities across the country. Their contributions as the economy recovers are real, but a pathway to citizenship would boost these to new heights, especially as the United States tracks its course for economic recovery,” the report concluded.
Opposition to making DACA permanent or supporting the Dreamers is driven by Congressional Republicans who have opposed nearly all forms of immigration reform, driven by a Trump-influenced attitude that all immigration is bad.
Advocates of immigration reform cite the economic impacts made by DACA recipients and believe legal immigration is not only good for the country but essential.
“Dreamers are vital to our economy and communities. Certainty about their future should not volley between administrations and courts,” said Laurence Benenson, vice president of policy and advocacy at the National Immigration Forum. “Americans support solutions from Congress this year. Republicans and Democrats must act.”
Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, welcomed the new rule for providing additional security to Dreamers.
“While this new rule fortifies the existing DACA program, it is not a permanent solution, nor does it expand access for other deserving groups. We urge Congress to act with mercy, justice and compassion by creating a path to legal residency and citizenship for DACA recipients — our neighbors, friends and clients, whose home is here in the U.S.”
In an Aug. 24 article published by The Arizona Republic, Dreamer Dulce Matuz said this or any other non-legislative approach to protecting DACA recipients will be ineffective in the current political climate.
“Since the push and pull started with the program and with the anti-immigrant rhetoric, it has been possible to effectively stop the program for people who although they are eligible, there is no permanent solution,” said Matuz, a member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition. “We need to stop playing around with this issue and really have legislation at the federal level, because if we don’t we will continue with this vicious circle. It’s a very difficult way to live. The rule announced today is the bare minimum — we need a permanent fix.”