The Uncertain State of DACA: Polarized Politics and Undocumented Lives

Five years after former President Barack Obama signed DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)* into law, the policy faces an uncertain future as it has sparked an ongoing and contentious debate between politicians..

On the Republican side, more conservative state politicians are pressuring President Trump, who has said little about DACA, to end DACA benefits for undocumented students. In a letter penned by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Republican Attorneys General of eleven states have “respect[fully] request[ed]” that President Trump "phase out" DACA. Yet, Trump said in early July that he and not “subordinate officials” would make the “very very hard” decision on ending or maintaining DACA.

With his inaction on DACA, Trump might protect young immigrant students and workers by letting it continue. But, if Sessions agrees with Paxton’s letter and can convince Trump to end DACA and deport young undocumented immigrants, the government would hamper undocumented youth academic and economic pursuits in this country.

Recognizing such dangers, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra countered Republican rhetoric in a recent statement. Supported by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and immigration advocates, Becerra said that “while some leaders in other states may not wish to stand with our young immigrant brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, we do.” Although Democrats may lack state and federal majorities, officials like Becerra and Healey continue to defend DACA.

 

*What is DACA?

DACA states that the government will not deport people who arrived in the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 31, have lived here for at least five years, have not committed serious crimes, and are students or have high school diplomas. Additionally, it allows the children of undocumented immigrants to hold work permits, social security numbers, and driver’s licenses. DACA allows undocumented immigrant youth to attend college and/or work as U.S. residents and avoid deportation.