Congress Must Act Now to Protect DACA Recipients and Create a Pathway to Citizenship.
Last Friday, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop processing new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The judge stated that DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can continue to accept new applications, but cannot process those applications, because DHS violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act (APA) when it created the DACA program in 2012.

“This ruling is crushing, horrible. My heart breaks for the young people who worked so hard to save money and apply for DACA when the program reopened. There is a huge backlog of new DACA applications, and these young people have been desperately waiting for a decision. Now, with this ruling, they know there will be no decision and they have lost hope that they will be able to work or apply to college in South Carolina. This ruling pulls the rug out from under them, and it is deeply unfair.” – Louise Pocock, Immigration Policy Attorney at SC Appleseed.

The Biden Administration has pledged to appeal the federal district court order and fight to protect the DACA program. The DACA program provided a life-changing opportunity for young immigrants in this country to pursue their educational and professional goals and contribute to their communities. It has also vaulted immigrant youth into a long-term struggle for their immigration status. The program constantly being put under pressure, with the height of which being in 2017 when the Trump Administration announced its abrupt end. 

The program has been reinstated thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 but the July 16 order continues to show how fragile the program is. 

The DACA program allows immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. as children to apply for temporary authorization to work in the U.S. and be protected from deportation if they meet stringent educational, national security, and criminal background requirements. Once someone receives DACA status, they must pay and apply to have it renewed every two years. 

While it is important for Biden’s appeal to go through to help reinstate the DACA program, more is needed to help Dreamers get the opportunities they deserve. DACA has its limitations, particularly regarding access to education and financial assistance or certification to essential jobs in professional fields like nursing and law. 

Recently, the Senate Committee on the Budget has drafted a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and essential workers through reconciliation. This not only will help many, but potentially lead towards a major economic boost for our economy. 

In South Carolina, there an estimated 5,520 DACA recipients. These young people make huge contributions to the state, including economic contributions, with DACA recipients in SC having an estimated spending power of $702.5 million annually and paying an estimated $81.7 million dollars in state and local taxes, and $138.4 million in federal taxes. 

For Dreamers in general, they came to the U.S. at such a young age – some as young as months old – and have grown to call South Carolina their home. A pathway to citizenship via reconciliation is the best opportunity to help make sure South Carolina stays their home. Use the following tool to let state leaders know that Dreamers need this reconciliation process to pass with the pathway to citizenship in place.
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