Democrats and some Republicans push to keep protections for those who came
to U.S. as children
WASHINGTON—President-elect Donald Trump’s first big test on
immigration will be how to handle the “Dreamers”—young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children whom President Barack Obama protected from deportation. Mr. Trump is already
under pressure from both sides.
Administratively, rolling back those protections is among the easiest things
Mr. Trump can do on immigration, but politically, it is among the hardest.
How he handles the program—known as Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals, or DACA—will be an early test of how faithfully Mr. Trump
plans to adhere to his campaign promises, which include ending the protections.
On Capitol Hill, the president-elect already faces opposition from several
Republicans over stripping young people of their protected status, as
well as strong support, portending an early showdown within his party.
2012 Obama program has about 750,000 participants, who have been given work permits as well
as safe harbor from deportation. During the campaign, Mr. Trump vowed
to “immediately terminate” the program, calling it unconstitutional.
That could mean revoking the permits immediately or allowing them to expire,
as rules require them to be renewed every two years. Revoking the permits
wouldn’t necessarily mean participants would be deported, but they
would no longer enjoy special protections or be able to legally work.
Immigration opponents are pressing the Trump transition team to keep his
“We would regard it as a knife in the back to the people who voted
for Trump if they did anything other than cancel DACA” on the first
day or first week of the new administration, said Roy Beck, executive
director of Numbers USA, which favors restrictions on legal and illegal
But the prospect of dismantling Mr. Obama’s executive action is prompting
a wave of protests on college campuses and anger from immigration advocates.
It is also generating anxiety for people enrolled in the program, who
are worried they have given their contact information to the government,
which could use it to find and deport them. More than 500
university presidents have signed a letter calling for the program to be upheld, calling it a “moral imperative
and a national necessity.”
Dismantling DACA also would spark a backlash in Congress, where Democrats
and some Republicans have long argued for giving some protections to the
younger immigrants brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. Mr.
Obama, too, has lobbied the president-elect to keep the program in place.
“I’m not comfortable with deporting families and breaking up
families,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.). She said
she wants to study the issue further.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said that while the constitutionality of
Mr. Obama’s executive action was questionable, it would be a mistake
for Mr. Trump to overturn it with no protections in place for those who
came forward under it.
“If he repeals it, then we ought to immediately pass legislation
to extend their legal status,” said Mr. Graham, who said he was
working with Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), and Democrats
on the issue. “The worst outcome is to repeal the legal status that
these kids have. Whether you agree with them having it or not, they’ve
Mr. Flake said he wouldn’t give Mr. Trump advice on how to handle
the program but hoped that legislation ultimately would give these young
people a permanent legal status.
“These were kids who were brought across the border when they were
young, in most cases. That’s a pretty sympathetic group,” he said.
In 2010, the Dream Act, which would have opened a path to citizenship for
these young people, passed the House, which was controlled at the time
by Democrats. But it failed to win the supermajority needed in the Senate,
also controlled by Democrats.
Following that defeat, the Dreamers built a political operation to pressure
Congress and the White House. Their tactics included street protests and
“coming out” events, where young people living in the U.S.
illegally told their stories. Tales of high-school valedictorians and
other achievers who couldn’t work or in some cases attend college
won attention and clout for the group.
Their activism helped push Mr. Obama to create the DACA program in 2012,
though he had previously maintained that he didn’t have authority
to do so. He was rewarded with strong Hispanic support for his re-election
later that year. Then, in his second term, after he tried and failed to
pass a broad immigration overhaul, the Dreamers were among the most aggressive
in pressuring Mr. Obama to issue a more sweeping executive action.
Again, Mr. Obama ultimately complied. In 2014, he offered similar protections
to millions of parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and expanded
the DACA program to more people. That action was
halted by the courts.
In Congress, Democrats have long favored broad immigration legislation,
including a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants. But
with Republicans about to control the White House and both chambers of
Congress, lawmakers are again focused on the narrower Dream Act.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), an author of the original legislation, told
reporters he was teaming up with Mr. Graham on the issue and that they
hoped to produce a bill as soon as this week, though it is unlikely to
make it to the Senate floor this year.
For now, Mr. Durbin has been giving frequent speeches on the issue and
lobbying Senate Republicans since the election to back legislation that
would allow these young immigrants to keep their work visas.
Even some anti-immigration activists say they could accept protecting Dreamers
if it was done in legislation and in exchange for enacting tougher immigration-enforcement
measures. Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration
Reform, said the young people are “a great leverage point”
to move a vigorous enforcement bill.
“We understand the DACA people will be viewed by the public as having
the strongest equities of the population here illegally,” he said.
“But those decisions have to be made by the Congress.”
REVILLA LAW FIRM, P.A.
Miami immigration firm and deportation defense lawyers
Contact our law office today to schedule a free in-office consultation
with Miami immigration attorney, Antonio G. Revilla III. Mr. Revilla is
a Former U.S. Immigration Prosecutor and immigration lawyer with 25 years
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