By Cassandra Castillo, Asst. Features Editor–
Just a few hours into his presidential term, President Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders, six of them relating to immigration policy. One of these executive orders was in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects immigrants brought into the U.S. as children, also known as Dreamers, from deportation. DACA is a policy project in which he was heavily involved as Vice President and sought to emphasize during his campaign. He followed through on his campaign promise of restoring DACA rights and went even further by calling on Congress to enact legislation providing them a path to citizenship.
To offer some history, this program began in 2012 under President Barack Obama after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act failed to pass through Congress several times since 2001—yes, these policies have existed for as long as most college freshmen have lived. The DREAM Act mainly focused on granting citizenship to Dreamers, while DACA addresses policy matters relating to deportation of law-breaking immigrants. It ensures that undocumented students or those in the military are not threatened by deportation.
While I am not a DACA recipient myself, I know several people eligible for the program. According to the National Immigration Forum, there are about 3.6 million DACA-eligible residents, but only about 700,000 are enrolled. The fees are $495 per recipient and are to be renewed every two years, putting financial strain on many families with several eligible children.
In 2017, DACA suffered its worst threat from President Donald Trump who tried to end the program altogether but ultimately failed after states began suing his Administration. The debate was then taken to the Supreme Court and in June of 2020, the court ruled in favor of the Dreamers.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his Court opinion that the plaintiffs did not provide real justification as to why DACA should be removed. The Administration’s main argument was that it was “illegal” and “unconstitutional.” They tried again to provide reasoning, but it was far too late; the case was decided with a 5-4 vote.
What Chief Roberts implied, though, was that an Administration can essentially remove DACA with the right evidence to do so. Thus the future of Dreamers relies on an administration that believes in giving immigrants a path to citizenship, unless the Senate approves the bill first. If Congress has fallen short for nearly 20 years, how will Biden’s proposal survive the Senate under his term?
We must take into consideration that the political system is a fragile one, but we must still acknowledge that our vote matters. We have a voice in the policy changes that are made.