Remember the DREAM Act? The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act was first proposed back in 2001. The bill would have given young undocumented immigrants the opportunity to enlist in the military, enroll in college, and begin the process of gaining citizenship. In spite of bipartisan support, it never passed into law, failing to win the required votes each time it was introduced.
In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. This executive order allowed more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors to work and go to college in the United States without fear of deportation.
A complimentary program put forth by the Obama administration in 2014, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), as well as an expanded version of DACA, were blocked when Texas and 25 other states brought a lawsuit in federal court claiming it to be unconstitutional.
These programs came under fire during the 2016 presidential campaign, with Trump promising to reverse them if elected. While the new administration quickly eliminated DAPA, the future of DACA remained unclear, with Trump sending mixed signals about his intentions after January 2017. Despite these uncertainties, the program has continued to function, with with 36,000 new recipients and 211,000 renewals granted in 2017 so far. The population enrolled in or eligible for DACA generates roughly $2 billion per year in state and local taxes, and the cost of repealing DACA and deporting these individuals has been estimated at $60 billion. An additional $280 billion in economic growth would also be lost over the next ten years.
Nevertheless, there are indications that DACA is set to be reversed. In June, Republican officials from 10 states, led by the Texas attorney general, called on Trump to end DACA by September, or face a new lawsuit challenging the program. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelley has indicated that DACA might not survive such a challenge.
In the midst of this uncertainty, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D - IL) have introduced a new version of the original bill. The DREAM Act of 2017 would provide Conditional Resident Status to eligible immigrants, including everyone currently enrolled in DACA, and put them on a path to citizenship.
To learn more about the history of the DREAM act and undocumented parents and children in the U.S., check out these books from the Denver Public Library. The Denver Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is a good source for local information, and DPL's Immigrant Resource Guide lists organizations that offer legal assistance and other support to immigrants and refugees.
Plazas are an open community space where immigrants from all over the world connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice a language, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help! Please see our events calendar for more information.