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Analysis

Trump administration’s DACA restrictions overturned

Over the weekend, a federal judge from the Eastern District of New York invalidated the Trump administration’s decision to halt new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to Juan Jose Gutierrez, the executive director for the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, “the most recent court ruling will restore the right of DACA recipients to two year work permits. But the most important ramification is that the program will be open to people who never were afforded the right to apply in the first place. There are about 1.2 million potential beneficiaries.”

This ruling found that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf was unlawfully appointed by the Trump administration, and therefore any changes he made to DACA were invalid. Secretary Wolf suspended DACA pending review despite the United States Supreme Court ruling in June this year that the Trump administration wrongly tried to shut down protections for these immigrants. 

Wolf’s memorandum reduced the DACA renewal to one year instead of the usual 2-year limit. Further explaining the impact of such repressive actions by the Trump administration, Gutierrez explains that “throughout the almost four years of the Trump administration, DACA recipients have had to deal with a barrage of attacks from the government to end the program by Executive Order. The collective psychological damage to dreamers is incalculable.”

DACA a gain of the struggle

Despite efforts by the Democratic Party to rewrite history, the program was not the result of the progressive goodwill of the Obama administration but instead was won by the determined struggle of undocumented youth. Under President Obama, hundreds of thousands of people were deported each year. The immense pushback from the immigrant rights movement, including courageous sit-ins held at Obama re-election campaign offices, forced his administration to enact DACA as a concession by executive order on June 15, 2012.

DACA provided limited legalization to many undocumented youth who came to the United States before the age of 16. There were limitations, however — to be eligible, applicants would need to have lawful entry, have no criminal record or were present before the law took action. 

Even with legal employment in the United States, this program still does not offer a path to citizenship. This still places immigrant youth at risk of deportation and their political rights are up for grabs depending on the current administration. Regardless, Gutierrez explains, “this development…should inspire both DACA recipients and all other undocumented workers, their families and political allies to intensify the struggle for full rights for immigrants.”  

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