President Donald Trump decided to put an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program within six months. Now, thousands of immigrants who applied for the program are vulnerable, as federal officials have access to their personal information.
Dreamers, or immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, aren't granted legal status automatically. Instead, those with a clean record are eligible to obtain a two-year reprieve from deportation. They are also given temporary work authorization, and after that, if they are able to prove they have been out of trouble with the law, and they are gainfully employed or in school, then they are allowed to apply for renewal.
Out of the 936,394 young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who applied for DACA benefits, almost 800,000 were accepted. The average DACA recipient is 22 years old and employed.
Recipients contribute up to $215 billion to the U.S. economy each year. On top of that, the fiscal costs to maintain their status is minimal.
Despite this reality, and despite the fact Trump promised to be a president who would oversee a real economic recovery, he's now pushing to end a low-cost program that is actually helping to boost the U.S. economy.
Still, what's more troubling is the fact that the information Dreamers believed would be protected could now put them in danger.
In the process of applying for DACA, Dreamers gave the feds a wide range of personal information, such as home address, fingerprints, educational history, photographs, and more. What's worse, they even divulged information belonging to their parents, who are all undocumented.
With this information in hand, the Trump administration will have an easier time rounding up undocumented immigrants to deport as many people as possible.
While all information regarding DACA recipients currently is under the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)'s control and the agency is not authorized to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents any information that could lead to deportations, both agencies respond to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Thus, the information could be easily shared if rules were to change.
“It would not be easy, but nor would it be impossible, for ICE to get hold of this data,” said Cecilia Muñoz, vice president of policy and technology at the New America think tank.
Under President Barack Obama, Muñoz oversaw the domestic policy council, serving as its director when DACA was introduced in 2012. At the time, officials brought up the potential risks associated with the program, including the issues with allowing the undocumented to give the feds their personal information.
Under their watch, she said, they knew they wouldn't use this information in a malicious way, but they couldn't guarantee future administrations would act the same way.
Now under Trump, those who trusted the Obama administration are learning that their trust in government has been eroded in a major way.
If anything, this is a huge opportunity for Congress to get off its behind and do something. They have the power to create a path for permanent legal status for Dreamers, thus overriding the president's actions. But will they do it?
It's time to exert pressure on those who rely on their constituents to remain in Washington, D.C., letting them know you want them to protect Dreamers and to take action.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson