by Madison Schettler | Staff Writer

In June of 2012, the Obama Administration’s DACA policy was established. In September of 2017, the Trump Administration rescinded it. DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a temporary suspension of deportation and authorization to work in the United States for young people who were brought here illegally as children.

DACA is not a path to citizenship and it does not provide permanent lawful status to applicants. In order to apply, applicants must be in high school, have a high school degree or GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran. Applicants must have clean criminal records, and cannot be considered a national security or public safety threat.

This program was begun upon the recognition of the immigrant problem in the United States. Eleven million out of forty-three million immigrants are undocumented, and thousands of them were brought here unknowingly as young children. DACA was the Obama Administration’s solution to this issue.

Instead of deporting young immigrants, or forcing them into the shadows, DACA allowed them to work and go to school without fear. However, amid an administration riddled with anti-immigration rhetoric, Donald Trump announced in September that DACA would be rescinded, making about 690,000 recipients potentially vulnerable to deportation. 

On September 5th, it was announced that DACA would end, barring immigrants from applying for it, and barring current recipients from renewing it after October 5th. The announcement also came with a six-month deadline for Congress to pass new legislation for DACA recipients, after which they could be susceptible to deportation. This decision was made in an effort by President Trump to stick with his “America First” agenda, and he hopes that “any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for… American citizens.”

In his comments regarding the decision, the President also acknowledged his hopes that “Congress will be able to help [the immigrants] and do it properly,” referring to the process of gaining citizenship. Attorney General Jeff Sessions maintained that “there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws” and that “enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering.”

However, opponents of this decision assert that DACA allows young people who previously lived relatively unproductive lives in the shadows now are given the opportunity to add productivity to the work force. Additionally, they are sympathetic to the fact that the U.S. is often the only home these young people have ever known. And indeed, studies have shown that the average hourly wage of DACA recipients increased by about $7 after their acceptance into the program, and that the U.S. could lose about $460 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) over the next ten years without DACA or a comparable program.

So how is all this relevant to the Salve Regina Community? For starters, DACA recipients are often college students (the age requirement is between 15 and 30 years old). Additionally, Sister Jane sent out a message in the wake of the decision, compelling the community, as an institution sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, to stay “committed to work for fair and compassionate policies for immigrants.”

In an interview with Sister Jane herself, she urged Salve students to “support people personally,” but even more, to “keep working with our legislators to get this whole notion of DACA status enacted as part of a law so that there won’t be this impermanence.”

Sister Jane also urged that students, “particularly those who come from outside of Rhode Island to see what their Congress people and senators think,” and asked “how can they help change their minds?”

For more information on DACA, visit https://www.uscis.gov/daca2017

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