The end of DACA: On October 5th, the federal government accepted the final DACA renewal applications as the successful program phases out after five years. When the president made an announcement to terminate the program in September, he set a cruel and unworkable deadline of October 5th for all DACA recipients whose work permits expired before March 5th to submit their renewal application. With such a short window for re-applying, about a quarter of all those whose DACA expired between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 had not submitted renewals. Roughly 42,000 DACA recipients who failed to renew will lose their ability to work and will be at risk of deportation by March 5, 2018, unless Congress takes action and restores protections.
Congress must act: Congress may have five months to act, but DACA recipients, their families, and their employers can’t wait. By terminating the DACA program, the president has upended the lives of nearly one million young immigrants across the country, including more than 8,300 DACA recipients in Tennessee. If Congress fails to enact a legislative solution to restore protections, an estimated 938 DACA recipients per day will lose their jobs and become undocumented.
Congress has no excuse not to pass legislation like the Dream Act and to ensure that no DACA recipients lose their ability to participate and contribute in our communities or face the risk of deportation; it’s what Americans want. 76 percent of Americans want Dreamers to remain in the U.S. as citizens or lawful permanent residents, including two-thirds of self-identified Trump voters.
Despite the urgency, members of Congress are failing to prioritize the lives of nearly 1 million young immigrants. Instead of passing the popular Dream Act and providing a desperately needed sense of stability to DACA recipients and their employers, Congress has demonstrated a lack of urgency and has instead focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act (again), drafting tax reform legislation, and debating extreme and anti-immigrant proposals that would hurt instead of help immigrant communities, including building a border wall or expanding ICE’s ability to deport individuals based on unfounded accusations of gang affiliation.
The legislative options: So far, five bills have been introduced in Congress in response to the termination of DACA. For a side-by-side comparison of these bills and eligibility requirements see here.
- The Dream Act: This bipartisan bill would provide a direct road to U.S. citizenship for people who are either undocumented, have DACA or temporary protected status (TPS), and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program. About 3.3 million people could be eligible for citizenship under the Dream Act.
- The Recognizing America’s Children Act: A Republican-led bill that is similar to the Dream Act but would include fewer people because of more restrictive eligibility criteria - about 2.5 million would qualify.
- The SUCCEED Act: The SUCCEED Act has the most restrictive eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship, and it erodes due process and the rights of those who it is intended to protect. Of all the bills, SUCCEED sets the longest period--15 years--before an individual could obtain citizenship. An estimated 2.6 million immigrant youth could be eligible. With conservative members of Congress starting to coalesce around this bill, it could hurt efforts to get real protection for Dreamers passed.
- The American Hope Act: The most generous of the bills introduced, the American Hope Act has the least restrictive eligibility criteria and would include 8 million undocumented youth. Unfortunately, it is least likely to see the light of day since it’s a Democrat-led bill.
- The Bridge Act: A Congressional equivalent to DACA, the Bridge Act would provide 3 more years of DACA protections without any permanent solution like a pathway to citizenship, landing us right back where we are today.
Although five bills have been introduced, Congressional leadership has yet to prioritize the debate or provide any momentum to get a bill through committee and to the floor for a vote. At this point, it is unclear exactly which of the bills will be the ultimate vehicle or what process Congress will go through to pass a piece of legislation. Right now, Democrats in the House are trying to force a vote on the Dream Act. If they gather 218 signatures for a discharge petition, the Dream Act would bypass every committee and go straight to the floor for a vote. Others have discussed attaching the Dream Act to a piece of “must pass” legislation this fall. While the exact path forward is uncertain, one thing is clear: we must build a massive movement to mobilize the majority of Americans who support DACA recipients and demand a clean Dream Act now so that there is no gap in protections for immigrant youth.
What can you do: Passing a clean Dream Act is possible, but we will need everyone to join us in this fight. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be leading marches, rallies, and phone banking sessions to urge our Members of Congress to act. We need you to stand with us every step of the way. Take action today by sending a message to our elected officials, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our mailing list for more ways to engage in the coming weeks.