On September 5, 2017 Jeff Sessions (on behalf of the Trump Administration) announced the decision to begin to wind down the DACA program over the next 6 months, calling it an “Unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch”. No new DACA applications would be accepted, and current DACA participants had until October 5th to renew their DACA applications. President Trump personally put pressure on Congress to act on the issue, tweeting “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!”.
This action was the result of pressure from a delegation of 10 states, led by the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton had established a deadline for President Trump to make a decision on DACA, with the threat of a lawsuit if he didn’t overturn the executive order. It was on the day of that deadline that the president made his decision to rescind (via tweet and Jeff Sessions).
Once the decision to rescind was announced, a series of various other top legal officers, such as Xavier Becerra of California, declared their intent to take legal action against the decision, threatening to sue the Trump Administration. Eventually 15 states and the state of Columbia would take similar action, suing the Trump Administration over the decision. As the news unfolded throughout the day, various CEOs, individuals, and institutions also rallied against the action.
Notable figures like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Tim Cook of Apple, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon made public statements decrying the cruelty of the decision. They were also some of the more prominent signatures on an open letter urging president Trump to save DACA that was signed by nearly 400 other U.S. chief executives and was submitted the week before the decision was made. The letter stated “Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, all 780,000 hardworking young people will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and every one of them will be at immediate risk of deportation. Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.”
Various protests broke out throughout the US, and though none individually exceeded 1,000 participants, the distribution of protests was remarkable. Hundreds flocked to the White House to protest the decision, a sit in was staged at the Department of Justice, 30 individuals were arrested for blocking Harvard Square in Cambridge in protest, a group of 400 protesters gathered outside Trump Tower, Denver saw hundreds of students walk out of classes to protest the decision, protests formed in front of ICE headquarters in Phoenix and Miami, and various marches occurred across LA. As the events unfolded over the following weeks, additional marches and demonstrations would continue to occur throughout the country.
More locally, the California State University Chancellor expressed concerns over the decision. The California State University system (California possessing the greatest concentration of Dreamers in the country) would be hit especially hard by the decision. In an interview with NPR, CSU Chancellor Tim White stated “Several thousand of our students and several hundred of our employees would lose the status that DACA has provided. And for some, that would mean they would drop out of school out of fear. For others, it would mean that they would not be able to get a job or have the sort of ability to function in society once they earn their college degree. So we’re actually deeply disappointed in the president’s action and are working strongly with, now, our congressional members to create legislation to reverse this.” In the following weeks, various other California institutions would also speak out in solidarity against DACA.
On September 11, the California UC system sued the Trump Administration.
The lawsuit claimed the rescindment of DACA unconstitutionally violated the rights of the university and its students. According to a Sacbee article, Covington & Burling (the law firm handling the lawsuit) put forth the argument that “the Trump Administration offered no reasoned basis for canceling DACA, instead pointing to the purported illegality of another anti-deportation program proposed by Obama, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents [also known as DAPA]. DAPA was struck down in court, and is largely unrelated to DACA. Quoting Napolitano “No court has ever held that DACA is illegal.”
As the week progressed, pressure continued to mount for something to be done about DACA.
On September 13, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi made a public statement regarding developments in the push to preserve DACA. “We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides”.
The announcement provoked outrage from the Republican party, and the following day President Trump tweeted “No deal was made on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”
As the president and other important political figures were pressed for further information, a number of aspects came to light – A deal had not been reached, discussions were still in place, and The Trump Administration would not be seeking amnesty or citizenship for dreamers (although statements later in the day left open the possibility of a pathway to citizenship being included in a potential immigration reform bill).
In regards to where the wall fit into this deal, the Trump Administration waffled throughout the day, at one point saying “the wall will come later” and at another stating “if we don’t have the wall, we are doing nothing.”
According to Paul Ryan, speaking to press on Capitol Hill, these statements surrounding DACA represented “a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation.”
At the end of the day, the only thing that had been established was that all parties involved would (for better or for worse) be attempting to pass the bill with bipartisan concerns in mind.
On September 18, Six California beneficiaries of the DACA program put forward another lawsuit against the Trump Administration.
On the same day Nancy Pelosi was shouted down at one of her own public speaking events by protesters who demanded a “Clean Dream Act” – a dream act with no wording changed and no change to border security measures. Pelosi failed to get control of her own event and 30 mins in departed with DACA beneficiaries who had been scheduled to speak in tow.
September 19, another protest by 10 demonstrators, including congressional democrats and the head of the New York City Council. In front of Trump Tower.
On the same day, a bill is sent to Gov. Jerry Brown to make California a sanctuary state – SB54. The bill limits the cooperation and communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. It passed the California State Senate on September 16. Dubbed the “California Values Act”, as of Sept 26, it’s “Now on Gv. Jerry Brown’s desk.” If the bill is approved by the governor, it codifies resistance to ICE and other Federal efforts to enforce immigration law in California.
September 25, the SUCCEED Act (Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Education, and Defending our Nation) is announced by Republican Senators. It would cover most current recipients of the DACA program, giving them “Conditional permanent residency” for five years as long as they work, study, or serve in the military.
Through the bill it takes a total of 15 years for qualifying applicants to apply for citizenship, would require numerous security and background checks, biometric data to be submitted, and fully paid back taxes. (The bill’s authors referred to this process as “extreme vetting.”) It was introduced by Sen. Thom Tillis, Sen. James lankford, and Sen. Orrin Hatch. After five years of conditional status, applicants could renew their status for another five years, and after 10 years, they can apply for lawful permanent status or a “green card.”
September 26, a request by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis to delay the deadline to renew DACA applications is “rebuffed” by the Department of Homeland Security. The call for delay was introduced on September 14.
Currently there’s a lot going on surrounding DACA. Between ongoing demonstrations, lawsuits, legislation, bargaining, and reform. Anything is possible. There’s hope. People are raising their voices to fight for these people, concessions are being made by both sides, and for the time being it looks like progress is coming, although it’s unclear what form it will take.
There are currently 4 bills that are making their rounds regarding DACA, each with different caveats and concerns. These bills are: The DREAM Act, the SUCCEED Act, the RAC Act, and the BRIDGE Act.