USA had a dream, but what of it now?

US President Donald Trump has made many changes to the administration and policy since his term began in January of this year. Many of them have not been well-received and have aroused both anger and hatred from many across the world. A determined pushback of policy by Trump has been directed towards the vast area of immigration. Overcoming the lengthy controversy and vitriol stirred up by his decision to ban immigration from a number of countries to the USA that was widely seen as a policy of racial and religious discrimination, Trump has done it again. This time again, it has left many wondering about their future in the US.

Trump came to power on the strength of promises that he made during his campaign, one of the biggest being that he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. Mexico has repeatedly refused to pay for a wall and while this discussion has not progressed, Trump has taken a decision that will affect those already living in the USA, on a policy that is much lesser known and perhaps one that many do not fully understand.

In 2012, then president Barack Obama created a federal government programme that would protect from deportation those who arrived in the US as children and allow them to grow up in the country and find work in the US, legally. This was seen as a chance for these undocumented migrants to build themselves a life in the US, giving these children a right to temporarily residen, study and work in the US. This was known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and those protected by it were called the Dreamers. This programme was a compromise on the part of the Obama government on the DREAM act after Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act failed to pass. This bill had first been introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001 by United States Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch and reintroduced many times since, without ever being passed.

Beneficaries of the DACA Act had to  necessarily be under the age of 18 and undocumented when they arrived in the US, were vetted thoroughly for any criminal history, threats they posed to national security, and had to be students or have completed school or military service. They also had to be below the age of 31 on 15 June 2012, the official date on which the programme began and had to be living continuously in the US for the last five years, i.e., since 2007. While the Dream Act allowed the migrants a chance to become permanent residents of the US, the DACA could merely defer deportation by two years, with a chance of renewal and allows them basics such as a work permit, a driver’s license and a change to enrol in college. Approximately 7,87,580 people are beneficiaries of this programme till date. A large chunk of these numbers hail from Mexico, brought to the US by their parents as children.

While one of Trump’s many promises during his campaign was to rollback DACA, no such measure had been taken till now. But on September 5, Trump and his administration announced that they would be ending DACA in March 2018, with “an orderly, lawful wind down”, as well as “the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program”. As Barack Obama said, the decision was “self-defeating” and contrary to “basic decency” and that  “A shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again.” Trump’s reversal of Obama’s policy has cast the fate of almost 800,000 people into doubt.

So what happens to them? Since Obama created this programme as an executive policy decision, Trump was only able to reverse the policy and has given Congress a period of six months to come up with a legislative policy. Till then, no more applications to DACA will be entertained and as of March 2018, the privileges enjoyed by those in the programmme will begin expire. In short, the status the Dreamers hold will be snatched away from them, unless Congress brings out a legislation allowing for some other method of temporary or permanent legal immigration status. As they lose their status, they become vulnerable to deportation and could be sent back to countries that they were born in.

Trump has stated that law-abiding Daca recipients will not be acted against. This is small consolation, however, and fear has been rising in the US since the announcement was made. The Trump administration and the Congress holds in its hands the fate of the Dreamers, for now.

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