American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Executive Director Benjamin Johnson responds to the January 22, 2018, congressional vote to reopen and fund the government for three weeks, until February 8, 2018 ending the government shutdown.
Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, once again let politics take precedence over the lives of real people, and has squandered another opportunity to protect Dreamers. Despite the fact that a vast majority of voters support measures to protect Dreamers, the hopes of this compelling population are fading as Congress fails to pass the Dream Act legislation, initially introduced with bipartisan support 20 years ago.
What happens to Dreamers now?
Each day Congress does not enact a permanent solution for Dreamers, 122 more young people lose their DACA. As of January 1, 2018, 14,242 DACA recipients had lost their status, ability to work, and most importantly, protection from deportation. That number has increased to 16,500 by January 19, 2017, when the short-term spending bill passed at the end of December ran out and the government shut down.
These numbers do not take into account those individuals whose protection had already expired before the termination of DACA was announced. Prior to September 5, 2017, DACA recipients could renew their DACA application up to one year after it expired. Most people did not renew their DACA protection on time because they were unable to afford the filing fee. However, when the Administration announced that it was ending DACA, it also changed the rule – preventing anyone whose DACA status expired before September 5, 2017 from being eligible to renew their status. Suddenly and without warning, people with expired DACA status who had been saving up to pay their filing fee were cut out of the program altogether.
Without DACA, Dreamers Lose All Protections and Face Imminent Deportation
Upon being granted DACA, young people received “deferred action.” Deferred action is a discretionary decision by DHS not to pursue enforcement against a person for a specific period. That means that, as soon as a Dreamer’s DACA status expires, DHS is immediately able to target them for enforcement and have them deported. Deferred action does not provide legal immigration status—instead, it grants only a temporary reprieve from enforcement.
Dreamers have already faced enforcement actions. A few recent examples include the following:
- Osman Aroche Enriquez is a Dreamer from Pennsylvania whose DACA expired after the USPS failed to deliver his application on time. Osman was pulled over for an expired vehicle registration and then transferred to ICE custody. He was not released for another three days.
- Daniela Vargas, a Mississippi Dreamer who was brought to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7, was detained by ICE minutes after speaking at a news conference about how her family had been targeted in an enforcement raid. She spent nearly two weeks week in detention before she was released.
What can you do?
Tell your Congressional representatives to pass the Dream Act. Contact your Senator and your Representative, sign a petition, or call (202) 224-3121. For more ideas on how to connect with your Congressional representatives, click here.
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