Graphic by Stephanie Mayer
Last September, the Trump administration decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA for short. This came along with the stipulation that Congress find a replacement for it by March 5, 2018. Less than two weeks away from the deadline, there is still no alternative to the program.
DACA serves to protect “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants who entered the country as children under renewable two-year deferred action. With nothing to take the place of DACA when it expires, the hundreds of thousands of immigrants protected under the program could be faced with deportation.
“This is something that’s partisan,” social studies teacher Jimmy Jiles said. “This is politically motivated on both sides.”
Congressional Democrats have taken a stance of supporting DACA and the Dreamers it protects, with house minority leader Nancy Pelosi speaking for eight consecutive hours on their behalf Feb. 7.
Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration want tougher immigration laws and increased border security, including a multi-billion dollar wall president Donald Trump has been promising since his campaign.
Congress’ lack of action has sparked debate among citizens on whether Dreamers have a right to citizenship, work, or even to stay in the country.
“As long as [immigrants] are being productive members of society, they should be allowed to stay,” sophomore Kema Leonard said.
Congress recognizes that many Dreamers have jobs and make contributions to society. Because of this, they haven’t entertained the possibility of completely deporting all immigrants in an official vote yet.
The senate voted on four different bills Thursday Feb. 15, with the most successful bill failing to reach the 60 vote majority required to advance with a 54-45 vote. All four of the bills included a pathway to citizenship for over a million undocumented immigrants, and three of them included 25 billion dollars in funding for a border wall.
Though the divide in Congress is close, Americans tend to support protections for Dreamers.
“If [immigrants] have been here for 10 or 20 years, they should be allowed to take the citizenship test, like a reward system,” Leonard said.
If a deal is not reached soon, and the Dreamers have to be deported, there could be a loss at Northwest.
“I have Dreamers in my class, and they’re some of my best students,” Jiles said.
Students wouldn’t be the only ones in fear of deportation. About 9,000 teachers are also protected under DACA.
“With all the kids coming from Latin America, having teachers that speak Spanish is very helpful,” student teacher Olivia Gerald said. “To deport 9,000 teachers like that would be a problem.”
As it stands, Congress is running out of time to find a replacement for DACA, and it’s the Dreamer’s futures in the balance. Only time will tell if Congress will be able to work out a deal.
“We need to find a path for citizenship,” Jiles said. “Sending them back [to where they came from] is less than ideal.”