DACA is threatened by Senate inaction

700,000 recipients remain at the mercy of the Trump administration

Supporters of the DACA program rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court. (Robin Bravender/States Newsroom)

By Alejandro Flores-Munoz

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration did not have the authority to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the manner that it did. Introduced in 2012, DACA offers temporary protection to select undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. With DACA permits, they can legally work, go to school, and serve their country without worrying about being deported.

While it is worth celebrating, the Supreme Court’s decision still permits the Trump administration to attempt to end DACA another way. Trump would have never been in the position to unravel DACA if Republican senators like Colorado’s Cory Gardner had taken bipartisan action to protect the program. Gardner considers himself an ally to young undocumented people and claims to support DACA, but he merely pays lip service to the program.

When Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to stop accepting new DACA applications in September 2017, he indicated that he would be willing to sign legislation to permanently protect the DACA program. If Gardner had acted upon his supposed commitment to DACA recipients and driven the Senate to pass commonsense legislation to protect DACA, Trump would have never been able to dismantle the program. As a result of Gardner’s inaction, 700,000 DACA recipients — hardworking young people who have grown up in the United States — remain at the mercy of the capricious Trump administration during a deadly pandemic that has claimed 170,000 American lives.

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Trump is already defying the Supreme Court by refusing to accept new DACA applications. As part of its ruling, the Supreme Court gave the Trump administration until July 13 to start accepting new DACA applications from everyone who had turned 15 years old and therefore became eligible for DACA during the nearly three years that Trump blocked new applications. Trump simply ignored the Supreme Court; as of this writing, he still refuses to accept new DACA applications.

The Supreme Court’s ruling also permits Trump to scheme up other ways to end DACA. Trump has promised to issue another executive order to end DACA, and in the meantime his administration is using all the tools at its disposal to water down the program. In July, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf released a memo stating that current DACA recipients would now only be allowed to renew their legal status for one year. Until now, DHS has always allowed DACA recipients to renew their applications for two years at a time, even after Trump blocked new applications in 2017.

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Even worse, many DACA recipients have been unable to renew their status because DHS closed several U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices due to the pandemic. When Trump inevitably issues another executive order to end DACA, current DACA recipients will only be able to stay in the United States until their permits expire. Some DACA recipients have recently renewed permits that will protect them for up to two years, but many only have a few months left on their current permits. If Trump issues an executive order ending DACA, they will be unable to renew their expiring permits and will lose their legal protection to stay in the United States.

Eighty-six percent of Americans, including three-quarters of Republicans, support keeping DACA, which protects hardworking young people who play integral roles in their communities in every state in the country. All DACA recipients arrived in the United States by no choice of their own; the average DACA recipient was brought to the United States at the age of 6 and has called the United States home for 22 years. Ejecting them from the only country they know is not only cruel but it will also seriously hurt our economy, which counts on DACA recipients to pay taxes, create jobs and spend as consumers. If Trump ends DACA, it will cost the U.S. $460 billion in GDP and slash desperately needed federal tax revenue by $90 billion over the next decade.

It’s obvious that Gardner won’t act to protect DACA, because he is a loyal foot soldier for President Trump. He is enabling Trump as he tries to snatch safety and security away from the 700,000 DACA recipients who call the United States home, during a global pandemic no less. It is clear that we cannot rely on Trump and Senate Republicans like Gardner to keep DACA in place. With Trump out of the White House and a Democratic Senate majority, we can pass legislation protecting DACA recipients next year.

Alejandro Flores-Munoz, a DACA recipient, lives in Denver.