Fate of 800,000 Dreamers uncertain

Immigrants and supporters demonstrating in front of the White House on Tuesday, at a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca). Congress has been given six months to reform the US' immigration laws - leaving some hope for
Immigrants and supporters demonstrating in front of the White House on Tuesday, at a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca). Congress has been given six months to reform the US' immigration laws - leaving some hope for Dreamers.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Those protected under Daca may now be deported from US when their visas expire

Ms Fatima Claros, 25, and Ms Yurexi Quinones, 24, were in tears outside the White House as Attorney-General Jeff Sessions cancelled Barack Obama-era legislation that had allowed them to stay in the United States after arriving years ago as children.

Ms Claros (from El Salvador) and Ms Quinones (Mexico)went to school in the US and continue to study and work in the country. They are among about 800,000 "Dreamers" allowed under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme to study and work in the US who face possible deportation at the end of their current visas.

The decision was expected, having been a campaign pledge by Mr Donald Trump last year, and broad details emerged before it was announced. The logic behind the decision was that then President Obama acted unconstitutionally by outflanking Congress, and that "Dreamers" were depriving Americans of jobs.

Mr Obama's executive order was signed in 2012. It amounted to an amnesty and prompted thousands of children of illegal immigrants to come forward and enter mainstream American life.

By far the largest group benefiting from the Daca programme are Mexicans, followed by Guatemalans, Koreans, El Salvadorans and Filipinos. The list includes young people from China and India. Today, Daca recipients range in age from 15 to 36, with the majority being adults.

Congress has now been given six months to reform the US' immigration laws - leaving some hope for Dreamers to be allowed to stay.

STRONG REBUKE

We shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us... Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages.

MR BARACK OBAMA, writing on Facebook.

But the decision immediately triggered an outpouring of condemnation, including a rare rebuke from Mr Obama. "Let's be clear: the action taken today isn't required legally. It's a political decision, and a moral question," Mr Obama said in a lengthy Facebook post.

"We shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us," he wrote. "Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages."

Criticism came from both sides of the aisle: Republican Senator John McCain, in a statement, said the decision was the wrong approach to immigration policy.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, in a series of tweets, was hopeful Congress would be able to address the issue of Daca without deportations.

"Congress must act immediately to pass permanent, stand-alone legislation to lawfully ensure that children who were brought here by their parents, through no fault of their own, are able to stay and finish their education and continue to contribute to society," he said.

The Daca programme applies only to those who have lived in the US for at least five years and have no criminal record. Many Dreamers now have regular jobs. Over 250 serve in the US armed forces.

In the 200-300 strong crowd outside the White House in Washington on Tuesday, Ms Quinones, struggling to keep her emotions in check, told The Straits Times her parents were now residents of the US and her sister is a citizen.

Her own visa expires next March, after which she may be deported to Mexico, which she has never been back to since she arrived in the US.

Her voice cracking with emotion, she said: "I have spoken to lawyers, I may have no choice. I came when I was eight years old. I will continue to protest until they renew Daca or come up with a better plan."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline 'Fate of 800,000 Dreamers uncertain'. Print Edition | Subscribe