Everything You Need To Know About DREAMers

Under the Trump Administration, many of his "accomplishments" have been to roll back Obama-era mandates, one of them being to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Since September DACA recipients have been faced with the difficulty of putting their life on hold and going back to living in fear of deportation. This crushing uncertainty has prompted many young people across the country fight against this life-threatening ticking time bomb by protesting or calling their senators to push for a vote on a Dream Act. We broke down the answers to some of your question about DREAMers. 

MORE: Get Ready to Cry from these #OriginalDreamers Stories Honoring Immigrant Parents’ Sacrifices

1. Who are the Dreamers?

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When the Dream Act was proposed, it coined the term DREAMers for those who would be eligible to apply. DREAMers are young people who were brought to the United States when they were very very young and consider the United States home. According to a 2017 survey by Tom K. Wong from UC San Diego, revealed that out of 3,063 DACA recipients, the average age was reported to be 6-and-a-half-years old. 

2. How long has legislation to protect DREAMers been in effect?

It has actually been over 16 years since the Dream Act was first introduced in Congress. On August 1, 2001, negotiations for a Dream Act were introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) who were chief proponents for a path to citizenship for undocumented youth. On December 18, 2010, a revised version of the DREAM Act failed to pass the Senate, where 60 votes were needed to advance the bill, the final vote ended up 55 in favor and 41 opposed, with four senators not voting.

3. What is DACA and how is it different from the Dream Act?

White House

On August 15, 2012, former President Barack Obama passed an executive order to stop the deportation of undocumented youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, (DACA). DACA is a government-funded program that allows undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria to be protected from deportation for up to two years. Although being a DACA beneficiary would not grant legal status, it would allow recipients to be lawfully present and receive a work permit and drivers license. The Dream Act and DACA are similar because they protect Dreamers but DACA is only a temporary solution while a Dream Act still needs to be passed by Congress to provide a permanent solution. Since 2012, 800,000 people under DACA have been authorized to work and have been protected from deportation.

Under the following criteria individuals would be eligible for DACA relief:

Under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012

Came to the U.S. while under the age of 16

Have continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007, to the present.

Entered the U.S. without inspection or fell out of lawful visa status before June 15, 2012

Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;

Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces;

Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors of any kind; and

Do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

4. What lead to the termination of DACA?

Throughout Trump's campaign, while often chanting to "build that wall" he promised to create stricter border security on the border. His rhetoric on Mexican immigrants - who make a majority of DACA recipients - has always been negative, going as far as saying, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, state attorney generals from Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia as well as Idaho Governor Butch Otter, signed a letter, threatening to sue the Trump administration if DACA was not revoked by September 5th.

"The Obama immigration policy "unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress,"  wrote Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

5. With DACA revoked what happens next for DREAMers?

On September 5th the Trump Administration ended DACA.  DACA issuances and work permits expiring before March 5, 2018 had to be submitted for renewal by October 5, 2017. 

Trump gave Congress six months to preserve the provisions before terminating it on March 5, 2018. In response to the end of DACA Jess Session said it was an “executive amnesty” and that “it denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” 

New applications would no longer be accepted and for those already in the program, their legal status and other Daca-related benefits (such as work permit and ability to attend college) would expire in March 2018. Since DACA recipients need to renew their application after two years they would no longer be able to do that and would risk deportation. Essentially, every day that Congress does not take action to protect undocumented youth they run the risk of deportation and are forced to live back in the shadows of society.

December was supposed to be a promising month for DREAMers because Congress needed to make a deal to pass legislation that funds government operations and agencies, or risk a government shutdown. Many advocates hoped the Dream Act would be negotiated into the spending bill. However, things went downhill after an initial meeting with Trump and ultimately the government funding deadline was extended to January.

6. Who is advocating for a Dream Act?

Twitter @NancyPelosi

Although the Dream Act is largely supported, even prominent figures such as Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell have stated they would support a bipartisan Dream Act, there are still a lot of negotiations on funding to be made by Trump and his team. On September 14th Trump hosted a dinner with Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. Among dinner conversations, topics such as the passing of a Dream Act and border security were topics of discussion. Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement, "We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that's acceptable to both sides."However the next day Trump tweeted that "no deal was made."

  

Conservative backlash prompted discussion for funding for stricter border security and building of the wall in exchange for a bipartisan Dream Act.

7. What is a clean Dream Act?

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clean Dream Act similar to the Dream Act would create a pathway to U.S. citizenship but it would do so without using young undocumented immigrants lives as a bargaining tool in order to fund a border wall or increase border security.

On December 15th 7 DREAMers, who call themselves the #Dream7, and an ally occupied Senator Schumer's office to protest a promise for a Dream Act under the government spending bill. Among them, Erica Andiola, former campaign press secretary for Bernie Sanders, were arrested, risking deportation. They stated they would not give their names or any information to cooperate in order to remain in jail and began what turned out to be a six-day hunger strike. 

8. How does Trump feel about the Dream Act?

Wikipedia

Trump seems to be all over the place when it comes to his stance on DREAMers.

In an April interview with the Associated Press, he said he is “not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals.” He added, “that is our policy.”

On September he tweeted if we should be deporting good, educated, and accomplished young people" and told reporters as he was departing to Florida to visit after Hurricane Irma that "the wall will come later."

However, while in Florida he said, "We are not looking at citizenship. We are not looking at amnesty. We are looking at allowing people to stay here. We are working with everybody." He added: "If we don't have the wall, we are doing nothing."

9. What happens next for the Dream Act?

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On December 22, 2017, Congress passed a short-term spending bill to fund the federal government through January 19 but with no DREAM Act attached. Protesters are rallying up to urge their Senators to promise legislation for a clean Dream Act by January.

If you'd like to find out more about DREAMers and about how you can help visit UnitedWeDream.org, the largest youth-led organization fighting for just treatment for all undocumented immigrants.