DACA: Where Are We Now?

Now that the March 5th DACA deadline that Trump arbitrarily imposed has passed, I think we are all a little murky on what this actually means for our DACA/Dreamers, especially with conflicting court rulings.

Back in January, a judge ruled that the government had to continue processing DACA renewals. That was a very important ruling for those of the 683,000 or so young Americans who had DACA, but was of no help to those who never filed in the first place or whose application had lapsed. Still, it was a victory. And in the days of Trump, even a small victory will do.

Recently, a judge in Maryland ruled that the government DID have the legal right to begin winding down the DACA program. Although that did not contradict the previous ruling stating that renewals must continue, it did set the stage for the eventual end of the DACA program. That leaves us in a gray area where renewals continue, but only temporarily.

On the legislative front, the narrower DACA bill failed in the Senate, and it seems like there is no movement to try and resurrect that fight. The House version of the bill, far less “narrow,” is H.R. 4760, entitled “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018.” This heinous bill contains quite a few nasties. I won’t get into all of them, but here are the low-lights.

The bill gets rid of the Diversity Visa Program, eliminates family reunification migration policies such as allowing citizens to sponsor siblings, parents and adult children, and renders the FORMER spouses and children of drug and human traffickers inadmissible. This bill strips certain authorities that the Department of State has to issues visas away and grants it to Department of Homeland Security.

On the local front, this bill would MANDATE COMPLAINCE WITH ICE. According to the American Immigration Lawyer Association, or AILA, it “raises serious constitutional concerns by mandating that states and local governments comply with ICE detainers, even when federal courts have found that these detainers can violate the 4th amendment. Precludes any state or locality from prohibiting or restricting in any way its cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.” So much for state’s rights. Local and state governments are treated to the carrot or the stick, according to the bill. Operation Stonegarden funds (of Pima County Supervisor’s fame) will be doubled in the coming years to strengthen collaboration between local police forced and federal immigration enforcement. Carrot. OR, your state or local government will lose federal grants to the tune of millions of dollars if they refuse to comply. Stick. It also creates a way for local law enforcement to have blanket immunity in certain cases.

Other provisions found in the bill include a mandate that the border wall is constructed, it re-defines “criminal gang” in overly broad terms, and requires the long-term detention of almost all persons undergoing removal proceedings. It also allows for Customs and Border Protection to hire 5,000 new agents and 4,000 new officers with benefits far exceeding those of a regular government employee. We’re talking retention bonuses up to FIFTY PERCENT of the agent’s salary (and in some cases up to ONE HUNDRED PERCENT), unfettered access to lands up to one hundred miles from the border and no more polygraph test for new hires!

So what we get must be pretty awesome, right? I mean, if we’re talking about deal making, there’s got to be a hook? Ha! There is NO pathway to citizenship for those with DACA (contrary to some reports I’ve read), it does NOT allow people to reapply for DACA if their application lapsed or if they didn’t apply back in the Obama years. It even criminalizes poverty. An applicant who does not maintain an income over 125% over the federal poverty level becomes ineligible for renewal, loses their status and can then be deported. And the final kick in the teeth is added fees for the renewal application, including a $1,000 “border security” fee.

H.R. 4760 is an outrage and it is insulting. Although it doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of passing in the Senate, all real progress had stopped because the Republicans have decided “look, we’re done” while they hold up this sham of a bill. NO to H.R. 4760, and GET TO WORK, OR GET OUT IN 2018!