After President Donald J. Trump decided that he “loved” Dreamers so much that he dispatched Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce and end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, these are questions that should be asked.
1. If these undocumented people have been here since childhood, why haven’t they become U.S. citizens?
Wow, this is a question asked so often, it only proves that too many don’t understand how our immigration system works. Quick answer: There is no path – nada, zilch, zero – for them to file for citizenship. That’s why DACA was established, to give them brief protection from deportation, but it was not amnesty.
2. Really? There is no way for them to become legal or citizens?
Correct. That is, unless they get married to a U.S. citizen. But then, the process is complicated. If you entered on a visa and overstayed, you could gain legal residency through marriage.
3. Who is this Jeff Sessions fellow?
That would the the U.S. Attorney General. The top law enforcement officer in the country. As a U.S. Senator from Alabama, he was a staunch opponent of immigration reform. Sessions proposed legislation that would impose a mandatory, 5-year minimum prison term on people who re-entered the country illegally.
4. Is it true that DACA was a magnet for thousands of Central American children to try to cross into the U.S. illegally in 2014?
Despite what Trump and Sessions believe, this is not true. First, the surge of about 70,000 children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras began in 2008, four years before DACA began. Secondly, these children who were fleeing for humanitarian reasons (avoiding gangs and violence) would not have qualified for DACA.
5. Did DACA recipients take jobs away from legal residents or citizens?
Sessions did say that DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” And, Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did mention that more than 4 million American jobless in the same age group as DACA beneficiaries “could possibly have those jobs” held by DACA recipients.
But, saying it doesn’t necessarily make it true.
Federal data suggests unemployment rates in that group have not changed with DACA.
In fact, economists dispute Trump’s claim that tightening legal immigration will lead to more jobs for Americans.
6. Is DACA unconstitutional?
False. The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on the constitutionality of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) last year, but has yet to rule on DACA. There is a probability that the current court would void DACA, but that hasn’t come before the court. If you believe otherwise, you have either been brainwashed or are easily guillable.
7. Doesn’t DACA give public benefits to its recipients?
Other than a work permit and a promise they are not a high priority for deportation, DACA recipients gain no legal residency status. Even then, it is only temporary after they pay about $500 and undergo federal vetting.
They do not get welfare, health care or other public benefits. They do qualify for in-state college tuition rates or for driver’s licenses in some states.
If you believe they get public benefits, you’ve heard wrong.
8. Are DACA recipients prone to commit crimes, as insinuated by Sessions?
To recap, Sessions said immigration laws should be enforced “to ensure the safety and security of the American people.” He said this when talking about ending DACA.
For starters, any DACA applicant with a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors are not eligible for DACA. Neither are those with a gang affiliation or who participate in criminal activities.
Studies show that 2,139 DACA recipients have lost their status due to criminal activity. Offenses ranged from domestic violence to DUI to burglary. That is 2,139 of about 800,000 DACA recipients. That is about one-fourth of 1 percent. Thirty-five times as many Americans have ended up in jail at some point before age 34.
Remember, their status can be revoked just for an arrest, not a conviction.
Yes, crimes have been committed by DACA recipients, but not at a rate suggested by Sessions.
9. Is this whole immigration reform issue a political hot potato?
10. Will Dreamers reward Republicans if they manage to pass legislation that protects them?
Couldn’t hurt. When President Ronald Reagan died in 2004, among those who paid tribute to the man were members of the local Oaxacan community who thanked him for signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
Juan Esparza Loera has been editor of Vida en el Valle since it began publication in August 1990. Send questions, comments or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org