The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a policy concerning immigration in the United States that permits some individuals to stay in the US provided that they came into the country (illegally) when they were children. This policy gives such individuals a renewable two-year permit that allows them to stay in the country legally and protects them from deportation. DACA also gives them eligibility to work in the US. The beneficiaries of this policy are known as Dreamers. It is however different from the DREAM Act as it does not provide full citizenship for the Dreamers which is provided for by the DREAM Act. It was brought into action by the former US President, Barrack Obama.
On June 15th, 2012, former US President, Barrack Obama announced his plan to create the program when he was giving a speech in the Rose Garden at the White House. A memorandum by the Secretary of Homeland Security dubbed “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children” officially formed the DACA program. It exempted some individuals from deportation and permitted them to work in the US by providing them with two-year permits. Some reports show that Obama enacted the plan after he faced a lot of international backlash from allies and other stakeholders like activists for failing to amend the US immigration laws. The failure of the DREAM Act also encouraged him to sign the bill.
After its announcement on June 15th, 2012, US Citizenship and Immigration began to accept applications on August 15th. To get the permit, people have to meet specific requirements. The applicant had to be below 31 years as of June 15th, 2012, he or she must have lived continuously in the US from June 15th, 2007 to the present date, and they must have been below 16 years when they came to the US. The applicant must also have been present physically in the US on June 15th, 2012 and during the time of application. The beneficiary must be presently studying or should possess a completion certificate, and must not have been charged with a felony or any considerable misbehavior.
Reports show that DACA has improved the wages for the Dreamers and at the same time, Dreamers’ labor force involvement has dramatically improved. It has also slashed down the number of illegal immigrants in the US. On the downside, DACA is said to increase mental health problems for the qualified beneficiaries.
After its creation back in 2012, some of the Republicans and the Democrats were against it stating that it was an abuse of executive power with some saying that the President has no power to create or waive immigration laws. President Obama tried to expand the program (allow more immigrants) in November 2014, but this move was rejected while the US Department of Homeland Security investigated the existence of DACA.
Despite the program being so valuable with more than 1.7 million people said to be eligible for DACA as of August 2012 (report by Pew Research Centre), on September 15th, 2017 President’s Trump administration announced its plans to eliminate the DACA program. After US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that March 5th would be the deadline for the policy, applications were immediately stopped. President Trump in his immigration plan wanted to provide the Dreamers with legal status, but this move was rejected by the Senate. In response, Obama questioned the reason behind doing away with DACA citing that it is cruel and self-defeating.