Washington Watch: DACA ‘deadline’ has muted impact

For the last six months, the nearly 700,000 enrollees in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have had today, March 5, circled on their calendars.

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced six months ago that the Trump administration was going to end the DACA program, today was the day that DACA recipients would no longer be able to renew their two-year reprieves from deportation. Two federal court orders, however, have allowed current DACA recipients to renew their protected status and work authorizations for at least the next few months.

However, the government is not accepting any new DACA applications, and Congress has yet to pass a legislative fix to take the Dreamers out of legal limbo and on a path to citizenship.

No Supreme Court action — yet

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to grant the Trump administration’s request for an expedited review of a nationwide injunction that forced the Department of Homeland Security to continue accepting DACA renewal applications. The case will now proceed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it will likely be heard later this spring with a ruling sometime thereafter.

Legal experts predict that no matter the outcome at the circuit court, the case will likely wind up on the Supreme Court docket in their next term.

The administration is also appealing a similar injunction issued by a federal judge in New York. That case is proceeding along a similar timeline. Depending on the outcome of the appeals at the circuit court level, DACA could remain in effect for current recipients until sometime next year.

Good news, but…

While it is certainly good news that DACA remains in effect for now, many see the courts’ actions as having reduced the pressure on Congress to pass a permanent legislative fix. The Senate’s failure in February to pass any one of three proposed legislative solutions was a tremendous setback in that effort. The president’s hardened stance that any action on Dreamers must be accompanied by other controversial immigration reforms certainly had a negative impact on those Senate deliberations and made the path forward more difficult.

While Congress must again pass funding legislation by March 23 to keep the government open, it is unlikely that Senate Democrats and other Dream Act supporters will use that occasion to force the DACA issue, as they did earlier this year, resulting in a brief government shutdown.

Still supporting Dreamers

AACC and other supporters of the Dream Act and similar legislation continue to make the case for legislation that grants Dreamers permanent legal status and a path to citizenship for people brought to this country as children, as we have done since the original Dream Act was introduced in 2001. It remains an imperative for the thousands of current and former community college students, staff and others whose futures in this country hang in the balance.

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About the Author

Jim Hermes
is associate vice president of government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.