In August of this year, Ashley Dominguez Garcia provided an update on the standing of DACA, Stand Up For DREAMers: An Update on DACA, which highlighted organizations such as FWD.us that are working to get the program reinstated and to create pathways to citizenship for all DREAMers.
Following the piece, Avery Crocker and Ashley Dominguez Garcia spoke with FWD.us’ Political Director of Immigration Campaigns, Eddie A. Taveras about the current state of DACA, the impact losing it would have on recipients and other undocumented individuals, and how companies and organizations can provide support during this time.
Ashley Garcia: DACA offers temporary protection from deportation and permission to work, permission to get driver’s licenses for hundreds of thousands of young people who came to the U.S as children. That being the general knowledge surrounding DACA, for people that aren’t keeping up with the current news about the program, can you give us an overview of what’s happening around DACA and the recent conversations around it?
Eddie Taveras: Essentially, DACA was a temporary program that was started by the Obama Administration that was pushed by DREAMers as a temporary fix given that at the time the DREAM Act and for the last few decades, the DREAM Act has been unable to move in Congress, particularly in the Senate. It’s been a very successful program as you noted. Currently, there are about 610,000 DACA recipients. I think at the height it was closer to 700,000. People have fallen off due to adjustment of status and so on and so forth and that’s why the number has gone down. It’s been widely successful in terms of making sure there is social and economic opportunity for not just DACA recipients, but for the families and communities that they are a part of. I mean, we’re talking about billions of dollars in taxes that they contribute to but also in economy and expenditure.
The wonderful thing about the program is that it highlights anywhere from the extraordinary immigrant to the ordinary immigrant who’s just doing their everyday life. Things from doctors and nurses to entrepreneurs, but also teachers who have been at the forefront of educating our next generation. So we’ve seen how the perception of these individuals who came as children but now the average age is 28 are stuck in temporary limbo every two years and so when you’re looking at the temporary impacts of this, it actually limits a lot of folks because you’re never guaranteed that your application will get renewed and you’re in this constant fear that the government can take it away at any point, which leads us to the point here. In 2017, the Trump Administration tried to end DACA. The Supreme Court did block it, but that was based on a procedural question. Currently, the constitutionality of DACA is what’s being questioned and it’s now in the fifth circuit courts of appeal. So essentially, they are looking at whether or not the executive office has the authority to provide temporary relief but also work permits, which those not only serve as temporary reliefs but in combination with work permits is what make the DACA program such a success. So what you’re having is very conservative judicial courts across the country but in particular, the fifth circuit that has been very much in their ruling unfavorable to immigrants and immigrant-related issues.
Based on our specific analysis, we don’t believe the fifth circuit will have a favorable ruling on DACA. Essentially, there are three scenarios that can happen. The first one is very improbable which is that they find DACA constitutional and the program continues. The second is they find that the deferment of deportation is legal but not the work permit. The third is that they find the whole program unconstitutional. What would happen then is that we would appeal and that will go to the Supreme Court, which of course has become more conservative and so we don’t believe that’s also a winning strategy for that. So with the appeal, the four judges have to vote in favor of hearing the case. Now, that would include the three liberal justices or what they consider liberal justices. Five judges would need to then vote to stay the renewal. Currently, the district court judge Hanen, of Texas, essentially halted new applicants from getting into the DACA program. This means the high school students that graduated and will be graduating over the next three years no longer have access to DACA. The only people that can renew are the people that have already been in the program. If the judges decide to keep the stay will depend on the Supreme Court until they hear the case. Until the court hears it and makes a decision, which wouldn’t be until the summer of 2023, DACA will continue to be in limbo. Even if all things happen where they hear the case and decide to allow renewals to occur, we don’t believe DACA will surpass 2023.
AG: President Biden recently shared a statement saying that he is sharing his plans to provide protections for current recipients. What impact has this had on current students that are not eligible for the program today? Is there a plan currently for students that are not eligible?
ET: Our report looks into the 100,000 high school students that are graduating and are not eligible for DACA. In terms of what’s happening for current undocumented high school students or those that have graduated prior to the decision to halt, there is no current plan that I’m aware of by the administration to provide them some sort of temporary relief. That’s part of the fight that we are in; trying to make sure that Congress sees this as a very detrimental and urgent moment to provide relief and permanent protections not just for DACA recipients, but for DREAMers including those that for whatever reason didn’t meet the criteria but are nevertheless DREAMers.
We expect the Republicans to at the very least gain control of the House which means that any bills that pass, Republicans will have to vote for in order for it to go to the President. House minority leader, McCarthy noted that he is not putting anything on immigration in, so we already have that confirmation. Senator Tillis, the Republican Senator of North Carolina was recently on a committee hearing where he noted that if something were to happen it would need to be before the next Congress so by the end of the year. We have a very limited opportunity to try to get permanent protections for these individuals that have either lost their temporary protections, will lose them, or have never had it.
AC: What has the response been from parents and teachers regarding what’s ahead for DACA as it relates to students and children?
ET: What I can assume and predict based on observation, experiences, and conversations with other partners who have that proximity is that a lot of students become aware during high school that they are undocumented and what opportunities lie, and the limitations of opportunities that they won’t have due to lack of status. That’s the disheartening part; high school is supposed to be a time for opportunity and a time to figure out who you’re going to be and we as a nation putting those limitations and essentially stamping out those dreams is what’s disheartening. It’s very difficult to see when there’s a lack of resources on how someone can get either temporary status or something of a relief that allows them to live their best, fulfilled life.
AC: What are the contrasts between those who have been provided opportunities for relief versus those who haven’t?
ET: You see the trajectories of opportunities with individuals who have DACA and individuals who don’t have DACA. Just a level of exposure to different things and not just career-wise but mobility. The fact that you can move across the country, get on an airplane domestically, and if you get advanced parole, even internationally. Our immigration system is built on limiting mobility. As much as an economic force of limitation, it’s also limiting mobility. This doesn’t mean that all DACA recipients are safe or feel safe because it is a temporary program that is not guaranteed as we’ve seen time and time again. But no one can deny the success of the program. Every time you pull this, the majority of Republicans, Independents, and of course Democrats are in support of DACA, DREAMers, and a pathway to citizenship for that specific part of the population.
FWD.us has come out with a few articles recently explaining the economic impact ending DACA would have on the country and videos saying that almost every major company in the US has benefitted by having DACA by employing these recipients.
AG: Why do you think they’re not fighting more to have these permanent protections given to DREAMers considering they’re relying on their labor?
ET: Businesses should be doing more, everybody should be doing more. I think it depends on the sector and the company. There is a coalition of businesses that support and advocate for DREAMers and DACA recipients, called The Coalition for the American Dream. This coalition specific of businesses have been behind putting amicus brief on behalf of litigations for DACA recipients, and have been putting out press releases and statements in support of DACA recipients. So there is a coalition behind it, but I think sometimes it gets into the ether of everybody’s specific circles, but it does have high support by businesses, and not just businesses that are part of this coalition but others that support this as well. There is not just an economic interest because it is in our best interest to ensure we provide pathways to citizenship for undocumented folks.
AG: What are some things organizations like Stand can do to further fight for permanent protections for students specifically?
ET: I think it’s important for folks to get community members not just involved, but local businesses too. It’s important to make sure they’re vocal about their support for immigrants and DREAMers and get them to connect with elected officials. I like to take the local approach. They need to feel connected to the issue someway and somehow. That’s one way of knowing whether those are their consumers. This is a family, a friend, or a community member. These are workers. It’s making sure there is a connection to getting people to understand how it affects them. This is not to just distract from the humanity aspect of these individuals, we’re talking about human beings, and they’re not just numbers. At the same time, there will be an economic effect for folks if and when DACA is taken away. There’s already an economic effect because when we’re talking about immigration and legal immigration which is what a lot of folks like to know, there is actually no pathway to legal adjustment of status here. The ones that are there are already in backlog and so over the last few years, there’s been a net decrease of migrants coming in here and we’re starting to see the impacts of the economy.
We are going to be behind not just in education, but in technology and innovation. When you look at these tech companies that are usually started by an immigrant or son or daughter of an immigrant, these are not just stories, these are facts that have numbers that we can quantify to the positive impact it has on this country. So you’re starting to see the decrease of migration on all levels here, from high schools to international to undocumented. There’s been a flux of reasons people have been coming here and climate change is a big reason why people are migrating, but we are starting to see those effects.
AC: Are there any other resources people can use that you’d like to share out?
ET: Yes, there are two I’d like to point out. The first is How Can Organizations and Companies Support DACA Recipients and Their Communities? This is from our perspective of how people can show up for DACA recipients that are in staff or community. A lot of the time, it’s making sure that you’re paying for renewals, providing resources and legal support for folks and their families and so that’s a guide we’ve been putting out for employers to adhere to. The last one is Informed Immigrant which is an online immigrant resource center that we run. We partner with national organizations and it has a lot of information, not just on DACA, but TPS, Public Charge, and Know Your Rights. The website is fully translatable in English and Spanish, but it also has other materials in other languages such as Mandarin and so on and so forth. So those are the two resources I’d recommend for folks to use.
Avery Crocker is Stand for Children’s Social Media and Digital Marketing Specialist. Ashley Garcia is Stand for Children’s former National Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Eddie A. Taveras is the Political Director of Immigration Campaigns for FWD.us.