What to do With DACA Amid the Uncertainties About its Future

Defending DACA at sunset in SanTana. Photo by GSR

By Samuel Paramore

Under Trump’s regime, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has been a cruel, nauseating seesaw of torment. It seems every month or so, we’re back to the same point; DACA is being halted and plans need to be made for a life without it. Then, all of a sudden, DACA is saved by the courts, or, at least, its expiration is postponed, giving more than enough time to plot strategy.

Ever since the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the program by March 5, DACA’s been a tug of war, a match that leaves many unsure if renewing their application would be worth much of anything in the coming months. It’s an understandable quandary to have, given the price of renewing, and the process of submitting.

As of now, the fate of DACA rests in judges hands, primarily in Washington D.C.,  Texas, and New York courtrooms. Washington D.C. Judge John Bates almost completely restarted the program as a whole, allowing both old applicants and new ones to apply and be accepted, but he walked that back to just allowing those who already applied to sign up. So, we’re back to square one. A court in Texas is preparing to complicate matters further with an expected ruling that DACA should be gone entirely.

If that happens, then two courts with wildly different opinions–that DACA is illegal and its phaseout is, too–will be affecting a federal mandate. This will force the matter to be resolved by the United States Supreme Court. Until then, where does the status of the program, a safety net for many undocumented folks, stand?

Renewals have been dropping with 64,000 people electing not to reapply given an expectation that their DACA protections will run out. There are fears that all the risks of applying, such as giving a government hostile to undocumented immigrants access to personal details, now comes with very few rewards, and no real guarantee they will still be protected from the reach of the deportation machine.

Thinking it through, that’s exactly what the Trump administration wants. They want to make undocumented immigrants to think that one of the roadblocks has to eventually stick, for them to believe that the any chance of staying in this country is impossible so why bother even trying? The White House disseminates this however they can because they know a robust DACA program is one step closer towards citizenship and that the few protections that DACA grants undocumented people are important.

The hesitation with DACA is more than understandable, but not reapplying could hand opposing forces–be it in the form of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Trump, or any Know Nothing organization–another weapon of immobilization against the community. It’s possible that DACA will survive the twists and turns up until to the 2020 presidential election. Depending on what happens then, the future of the program may stabilize. That’s one big “if” for sure. 

We can’t tell folks what the correct decision is. The issues are far too fraught with complications. But, we can suggest that people should give pause before handing away one of the viable options they have to exist within a society increasingly hostile to their existence. 

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