Immigrants have been viewed as strangers on several occasions since the dawn of time, and they have been denied adequate political and social freedom. Be it Mexican, Pakistani, Indian, or some other race, there has been a time when they have been faced with deportation from the United States of America, despite having lived the bulk of their lives there. Most of these people were born in America and have proven to be more at one with American culture than with their original roots. Regardless, the government has punished them with deportation. To ensure that these immigrants were treated equally and were given their legal rights, Barack Obama’s administration implemented the DREAM Act and the DACA Act. Despite the Congress disapproval towards these projects, Barack Obama still tried his level best to ameliorate the condition of the immigrants. Hence, this research paper aims at highlighting the purpose behind the implementation of the DREAM Act and the DACA Act and what measures were taken under these acts. Furthermore, it also shows whether these laws were effective in ameliorating the conditions for immigrants or not.
Throughout the course of history, policymakers have been engaged in trying to reestablish the outdated and unorganized immigration system of the United States. Despite the implementation of the thirty years old, Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), initiated in 1986, not much was accomplished. Yes, it did aid in legalizing around 3 million immigrants, residing in the United States, it still did not meet all the needs for ensuring the social as well political equality of immigrants. However, as time progressed, the number of immigrants residing in the American soil had increased from 3 million to almost 11 million, thus making the IRCA incapable of handling such increasing numbers (Audrey Singer 8). Despite the numerous measures taken to introduce an effective immigration reform, Obama’s administration was forced to exile around 2 million immigrants, which was reported to be the greatest number of immigrants any administration had deported (Audrey Singer 9). Most of these immigrants consisted of kids who were brought by their parents, without their consent, thus increasing the pressure on the government to devise a better strategy to deal with the influx of immigrants. Hence, this led to the implementation of the DACA Act in 2012 and the DREAM Act in 2001.
Originated on 15th June 2012, the DACA Act was a temporary solution posed by Obama’s administration, which focused on providing protection to the unauthorized immigrants from being deported. These illegal immigrants were many children who had been brought to the United Sates by their parents, without their consent (Audrey Singer 14). According to the clauses of this act, these unauthorized immigrants were granted not only world authorization. But were also guaranteed a two-year protection from being deported for those who arrived when they were less than sixteen years of age as well as, those who were below thirty-one years old (Wildes, “What is the difference”). Along with this, the Act also included those who were either in school or were done with their high school. Similarly, those had resided in the United for five years and more and had no criminal record were also a part of the DACA Act (Wildes, “What is the difference”). Those people who successfully managed to meet the criteria of the DACA Act were allowed not only a driving license but also received a social security number and a work permit that would last for two years.
However, the program was expanding to three years, thus incorporating unauthorized immigrants belonging to any age bracket, and arrived in the premises of the United States before 2010. It was observed that the prominent factors that the DACA application was based on greatly aided in influencing the results of this act. The total cost of the application process was noted to be approximate $495, which constituted of charges for their biometric tests as well as their employment authorization procedure (Shoichet, “DACA: 10 questions”). Yes, initially DACA did seem to be effective and efficient because an influx of immigrants, organizations and government levels got involved in the addressing the issues of the immigrants and committed towards them guiding them legally, politically as well as socially. Moreover, immigrants will also be allowed to travel other countries for job purposes, funerals, and other important reasons, only if they fill out a form and pay a fixed fee of $575 (Shoichet, “DACA: 10 questions”).
Similarly, another program was implemented, which was addressed as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which designed to address the needs of the parents of their kids, who were titled as the U.S. citizens (Audrey Singer 19). However, both these programs were not supported by the members of the federal court.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) Act was first implemented in 2001 by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch. According to this act, unauthorized young immigrants were granted, legal permanent resident. Since the DACA Act is known to be a branch of the DREAM Act, so their criteria pretty much similar to that of the DACA Act. This act and movement were headed by youth activists, who were most commonly addressed as DREAMers. This movement focused on allowing illegal students to be able to receive higher education. This act has been emerging at intervals in 2010 and 2013 but would fail to make any significant difference, primarily because of the lack of acceptance from the Congress. However, once Barack Obama came into the presidency, the DREAMers saw an opportunity for a change and thus expected him to make significant shifts in the dysfunctional immigration system of the United States (Unzueta Carrasco and Seif 282).
Despite the enthusiasm of DREAMers, all the versions of the DREAM Act have failed to achieve their goals every single time. Both the versions introduced in 2010 and 2011 were not passed because of the lack of support from the Senate and Congress respectively. Various conflicting views emerged due to the introduction of the DREAM Act. Some viewed it as being a means of protecting the youth from getting deported from the United States because they were unable to get permanent residence. Others believed that it that the employment of such a reform would just promote illegal activities in the United States, thus allowing minor children to cross the United States border illegally.
If one comes to think about it, one of the most significant differences between the DACA Act and DREAM Act is that the former was a reform that was implemented by Barack Obama’s administration. While the latter was a potential legislation that needs to be implemented under the order of the Congress, thus allowing the President to convert it into law. Both offer similar benefits to the unauthorized immigrants, but DREAM Act has the edge over the DACA Act, not only because it allows the immigrants to obtain a green card, but also because it includes far more people than those that managed to meet the criteria of the DACA Act. The only plus point DACA Act has is that it only asks for the applicant to be as far as a high school student, so that he could qualify for the program, whereas, the DREAM Act asks the applicants to have obtained higher education or four years of time spent in military service. Additionally, the focus groups of both the DACA Act and the DREAM Act were very diverse, which showed the differences in their outreach and efficiency (Audrey Singer 21).
Implication of these Acts in the Current Times
When assessing the consequences of the DACA Act, it was observed that it posed some threats as well. Regarding short-term threats, there was a possibility that some applicants would not be able to afford the application fee. Followed by this, its long-term threats became increasingly prominent after Donald Trump came into the presidency, especially after he has threatened to build a 30 feet high wall at the Mexican border, so that he can prevent the Mexican immigrants from entering the United States. Keeping these threats in mind, Trump has also declared that he plans on terminating the DACA program, deporting all those immigrants that were legally living in the United States under the DACA Act.
Also, since most of the DACA applicants are Mexicans, so they are expected to get affected the most by these unfavorable changes. With the current candidates being around 752,154, who have managed to live legally in the United States, lawmakers are trying to implement a bipartisan initiative that might accommodate these immigrants, of Trump tries to forcefully deport them (Shoichet, “DACA: 10 questions”). Similarly, if the DREAMers or unauthorized immigrants successfully qualify for the DACA Act, their chances of deportation by President Donald Trump will simultaneously decrease, mainly because that he would not be able to prove that they pose a threat to the social security of the United States.
On the one hand, President Trump is imposing such restrictions on the immigrants; while on the other hand, sources have reported that he had decided to revoke DAPA. Trump supporters have stated that killing the DACA Act will not make a huge difference, because it was already dysfunctional and unorganized, thus terminating it is a better option according to them. Revoking DAPA is a much better strategy because it was more efficient as well as effective (Drum, “Trump Kills Meaningless Program”).
Despite the efforts of the United States government to devise and implement effective reforms that cater to the needs of the immigrants, they will still be mistreated. Both these acts were laced with opportunities as well as drawbacks, thus proving their ineffectiveness. Even though Trump has been noted to revoke DAPA, critics still believe that terminating DACA will not be a welcome move. Under the current circumstances, no one can say what will become of the immigrants, but critics and immigrant organizations need to take the initiative to ameliorate the deteriorating conditions of the unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States.
Audrey Singer, Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, and Jill H. Wilson. “Local Insights From DACA forImplementing Future Programs for Unauthorized Immigrants.” Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program (2015): 1-31.
Drum, Kevin. “Trump Kills Meaningless Program, Keeps DACA “Mini-DREAM” Act in Place.” 16 June 2017. Mother Jones. 19 June 2017.
Shoichet, Steve Almasy and Catherine E. DACA: 10 questions on program that protects ‘Dreamers’. 17 February 2017. 19 June 2017.
Unzueta Carrasco, Tania A and Hinda Seif. “Disrupting the dream: Undocumented youth reframe citizenship and deportability through anti-deportation activism.” Latino Studies 12.2 (2014): 279-299.
Wildes, Leon. What is the difference between the DREAM Act and DACA Act? 12 June 2013. 19 June 2017.