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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Summary

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was an Obama Administration policy that was established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. This initiative ensured that certain individuals (known as Dreamers) without lawful immigration status who were brought to the United States as children would be granted temporary lawful status in this country and would not be deported. Individuals who stayed in this country through DACA were required to meet certain eligibility requirements and show that they were:

  • Under age 16 when they entered into the United States
  • Under age 31 on June 15, 2012
  • Continuous residents in the United States for at least five years before June 15, 2012
  • In the United States when making a request for DACA protection
  • Not convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and not otherwise a threat to national security or public safety
  • In school, graduated from high school or obtained general education development certificate, or honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces or Coast Guard

After President Trump was elected in 2016, he directed his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to review the DACA policy and determine if changes were needed to the program.  On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced that DACA was being rescinded as the Trump Administration believes that the “program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.” DHS announced that any DACA recipient would have until October 5, 2016 to apply for a renewal of protected status. Any Dreamers who failed to apply for a renewal by this date would lose their protected status and would be subject to deportation.

The legal status of DACA is currently under review in federal court. On January 9 of this year, a federal judge ruled that President Trump’s decision to rescind the DACA program was illegal as it was based on a “flawed legal premise that the agency lacked authority to implement DACA.” After the federal court issued this ruling, the DHS announced that it would reopen the process for individuals in the United States under DACA to apply for a renewal of their protected status. A higher court may weigh in on the initial federal court DACA ruling, and Attorney General Sessions has asked the Supreme Court to render a decision on the Constitutionality of the DACA program.

There is also a chance that Congress will act to approve legislation that would grant permanent legal protection to current DACA beneficiaries. Both parties have expressed an interest in the passage of legislation to remove the risk of deportation of Dreamers. Republicans and Democrats continue to work to reach an agreement regarding this issue but no such deal has emerged at this time. President Trump and Congressional Republicans have insisted that any deal reached in conjunction with DACA must also include funding for a wall on the Southern border of the United States. Congressional Democrats have linked an agreement on DACA with their support for continued funding for government operations through the remainder of this year.

ACP opposes President Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA and is greatly concerned that this decision will undermine public health and medical education. After the decision to eliminate DACA was announced, ACP released a statement that urged the President to immediately reverse this decision and called on Congress to enact legislation to implement a pathway for citizenship for Dreamers.

ACP’s opposition to this policy stems from the fact that students with DACA status are currently enrolled in medical school or work as physicians and nurses that have the experience and background to treat a culturally diverse population.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in 2016, approximately 70 students with DACA status were enrolled in medical school.  If they are deported, our country will be denied the benefit and value of their contributions and experience in health-related fields.

ACP has urged Congressional leaders to consider and pass legislation, such as S. 1615, the DREAM Act of 2017, that would remove the risk of deportation for Dreamers. This bill would establish a three-step pathway to U.S. citizenship for DACA recipients through college, work, or service in the Armed Forces.  ACP has also asked Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers early in 2018 so that they will have certainty and stability in their residency and ability to work in the country.

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