Last year’s announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program by President Obama helped energize the movement for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. DACA has so far provided nearly a half-million young undocumented immigrants with temporary permission to remain in the U.S. and work. DREAMers were given a chance to live without constantly looking over their shoulders for ICE while pursuing their academic studies. The president said that it was up to Congress to pass a DREAM Act to give those receiving DACA permanent status. In June, the Senate did that by an overwhelming vote.
The Senate DREAM Act bill is more inclusive than the DACA program. To be eligible for DACA, a young person must have entered the United States before June 15, 2007. The Senate DREAM Act would allow those that entered up until the end of 2011 to apply. This could increase the total number of DREAM Act-eligible young people by 50%.
The disgraceful decision by House conservatives to reject the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill means that those DREAMers who entered the U.S. when they were under 16 years old between 2007 and 2011 will live without any kind of immigration protections during the months, or years, it takes to get the DREAM Act passed. President Obama has the power to protect these young people, all of whom are 21 years of age, or younger. He can do so tomorrow by simply extending eligibility to apply for DACA to anyone who would meets the eligibility dates for the DREAM Act.
Based on the public’s reaction last year, there is no political downside to including more teens and 20 and 21 year olds to the program. The American people want these kids protected. In addition, the move will remind Republicans that delaying reform will have consequences.
Expanding DACA will encourage immigrant students to stay in school and go to college, which benefits us all.