President-Elect Joe Biden Pledges to Protect DACA  Recipients

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President-elect Joe Biden

By Chaitram Aklu

Former Vice President and President-Elect Joe Biden (Photo by C. Aklu)

On November 9, US President–Elect Joseph Biden announced that on day one of his presidency, he will issue an Executive Order (among others) to reinstate the 2012 protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients which President Donald Trump ended in 2017.

Donald Trump began his Presidential campaign at his hotel in New York City on June 16, 2015 with this racist and false message to his supporters.  “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic]. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Fast forward. Four days before the Nov. 3, 2020 general election President Donald Trump delivered a similar but more subtle message in a proclamation declaring November 1, A “National Day of Remembrance for Americans killed by Illegal Aliens.”  He noted “We pay tribute to the enduring memory of every American killed by illegal aliens.”

The U.S. Border Patrol data on convictions of criminal aliens by type of criminal conduct nationwide as of September 30, 2020, reveals that there were 208 convictions for assault, battery, domestic violence; 3 for homicide, manslaughter (an average of less than 4 over the past 5 years); 386 for illegal drug possession; and 256 for sexual offenses.

Those who followed President Trump from June 2015 throughout his one term Presidency know that he has a very unfavorable relationship with the truth. In fact he acknowledged that much when he confessed “I tell the truth when I can.”

A May 2018 article in Criminology, a Journal devoted to the study of crime and deviant behavior, examined data on the relationship between undocumented immigration and violence in all 50 states and Washington D.C. from 1990 through 2014. The results of the study (the first of its kind) found undocumented immigration does not increase violence. Rather, illegal immigration may lead to a reduction of crime.  The results of the study is supported by the Cato Institute which examined crime statistics in Texas and found that legal or illegal immigrants are less likely to be convicted of crimes than native-born residents.

One group of aliens targeted by Trump was offered protection by President Obama in 2012 through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program allowed certain unauthorized aliens such as Derek, who arrived in the US as children to apply for a two-year forbearance of removal. It allowed them to become eligible to work and receive various other benefits.

To qualify for the program an individual must have resided in the US continuously since 2007; was less than 31 years of age in June 2012 and are currently students; have completed high school; are honorably discharged military veterans; have not been convicted of any serious crimes and are not a threat to national security or public safety. They had to apply for renewal every two years to continue to benefit from the program.

In 2017, the Trump administration moved to end DACA when it announced that it will no longer accept new applications or applications for renewal of status.

The action was challenged in the courts and reached the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) which ruled on June 18, 2020 that the termination of the program was “done in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”  It ordered the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue to accept DACA renewal applications from anyone who has DACA status. The ruling by the Chief Justice noted “DHS concluded that these individuals warrant favorable treatment under the immigration laws because they “lacked the intent to violate the law and are “productive” contributors to our society” and “know no other country as home.” The CJ also ordered the USCIS to “accept applications to determine whether these individuals qualify for work authorization during the period of deferred actions.”

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) notes that as of March 2020 there were 643 560 DACA recipients and estimates that 1 326 000 could be immediately eligible. The Pew Research Organization provides a geographic breakdown of regions of origin (with a higher total). It reports “By region, almost all current DACA recipients were born in Mexico or Central or South America (648, 430, or 94 %). Another 18,940 (3%) were born in Asia, followed by the Caribbean (8,300), Europe (5,190) and Africa (4,240).

DACA recipients known as “Dreamers” and brought to the US illegally by their parents from over 190 countries, now average 26 years of age. According to a June 18, 2020 CNN article by Catherine E. Shoichet, the greatest number of Dreamers, (81 percent) were born in Mexico. California and Texas account for 45 percent of all DACA recipients (184 880 and 107 020 respectively).

It is nearly four decades since SCOTUS ruled (Plyler v. Doe. 1982), that undocumented children of alien parents cannot be denied a public education. They are not responsible for the predicament they are in because of the action of their parents.  The opinion stated  “There is no evidence in the record suggesting that illegal entrants impose any significant burden on the states’ economy –.”

Far from being a burden and a drain on the services of the US economy, this particular group of migrants actually contributes to the economy. 91 percent are employed with about 29 000 employed as healthcare workers and 9 000 employed as teachers and teacher’s assistants. They are the parents of 250 000 US citizens and pay $1.7b per year in taxes. Also, 5 percent of DACA recipients have started businesses compared to 3 percent of Americans – according to the CNN article.

Biden’s promise to give Dreamers ‘a fair shot of the American dream’ as he likes to tell it when speaking of the sacrifices made by his own father to support his family, has brought Dreamers great hope for their future.

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