Immigrant and Refugee Support Committee News
There are currently about 2 million persons living in the United States who were brought to this country by their parents as children, referred to as Dreamers. They now fall between the ages of 16 and 35 years old and are primarily from Mexico (79%), though many others were born in Central and South America, Asia and the Caribbean. They have grown up in the United States, but lack the documentation to participate fully in society. DREAM stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
The DREAM Act, introduced in 2001, was designed to help these young people become citizens; Congress has failed to pass the DREAM Act to date. Other legal pathways to citizenship are nearly non-existent for Dreamers without passage of The DREAM Act. References to a clean Dream Act mean a law that would offer Dreamers a path to citizenship, and would not be tied to any other policies, immigration-related or not.
In 2012, the Obama Administration created a temporary program to help establish a citizenship pathway called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) absent passage of The Dream Act. The program acted as a stopgap to prevent deportation and permit Dreamers who registered for the program to lead productive lives in the United States. According to a survey of DACA participants, the median age of entry into the United States was 6 years old, and the most common age was 3.
DACA permits Dreamers to apply for deferred action (from deportation), although it does not confer lawful status. Applicants must be enrolled in high school or already have a diploma or G.E.D. in order to qualify. Anyone with a criminal history (a felony or serious misdemeanor conviction or 3 misdemeanor convictions) is not eligible. They must pass a background check and apply for work permits; the cost of the application and to be enrolled in the program is $495. DACA status can be renewed every 2 years. Of the total 2 million Dreamers, approximately 800,000 participate in the DACA program. 
There are additional benefits gained by participating in the DACA program besides permission to remain in the country. Recipients are able to work legally by obtaining a work permit and possibly qualify for health benefits under an employer’s insurance plan. This ability to work legally allows recipients to pay for higher education and in some states they may legally obtain a driver’s license. The program opens up access to in-state tuition and state-funded grants and loans in select states. Also in some states recipients may qualify for state-subsidized health care.
In September 2017, President Trump announced DACA would be phased out, ending March 5, 2018. Nine state attorneys general threatened to sue the federal government over the DACA program, saying that it was an overreach of presidential (Obama administration) power.
Those whose DACA expires between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, may apply for one last 2-year renewal. A lawsuit brought by a group of immigration advocates and Democratic and local state officials said the program was improperly ended. A federal court order in early January 2018, permits people with current DACA status to continue to apply for a 2 year renewal until a ruling is made.
If Congress does not pass a clean Dream Act or arrive at another solution, and the injunction against the DACA phase-out is lifted at the judicial level, recipients will lose their protection as their 2-year status expires. Renewals would end March 5, 2018. No applications for first time DACA recipients are being accepted.
(See SPC Facebook Group Page for regular updates about ongoing negotiations to resolve this immigration issue.)