Many people in Illinois and around the country have been helped by the DACA program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Known as “Dreamers,” the future of these undocumented or out-of-status immigrants who came to the United States as children has become a subject of political debates. Almost 800,000 people across the country have benefited from the program, and DACA recipients must have their employment authorization renewed every two years by filing with the Department of Homeland Security. While Dreamers have received the ability to study and work legally through the program, they have not found a path to citizenship or long-term relief.
DACA still needs a long-term solution
DACA was created in 2012 in response to calls to find solutions for undocumented immigrants who came as children as protests grew across the country. However, the subsequent administration attempted to bring the program to an end, not only for new recipients but for existing holders of DACA immigration status. Only congressional action can provide a firm footing for Dreamers as a group, and some members of Congress are advocating for legislation to pass both the House and the Senate, saying that the lives of Dreamers should not be simply a topic of partisan political debate. Even renewals for DACA recipients have faced ongoing challenges, as the combination of the pandemic and ongoing court challenges have imposed new delays.
Legal and legislative efforts continue
Advocates for immigration rights recall the hope of the Dream Act in 2010, which failed before DACA was established in 2012. A federal district court struck down DACA in July 2021, and appeals are being pursued; one year earlier, the Supreme Court denied the then-Republican administration’s efforts to end DACA.
Some legislative efforts may aim to protect those currently covered by DACA but exclude future applicants, although other members of Congress have rejected these limitations. As the political process plays out, however, the lives and futures of many young immigrants hang in the balance.