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by Lansing Association for Human Rights Board
On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, President Trump announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He also announced a six month delay in the phasing out of DACA to allow time for Congress to pass a legislative solution.
President Obama created the DACA program via executive order in 2012, granting protection from deportation and work authorization for nearly 800,000 undocumented people brought to the United States as children. DACA was available to undocumented individuals who arrived before age 16, had no criminal record, and were attending school or serving in the military. Although DACA granted no legal immigration status, it enabled those eligible to live and work without fear for the first time in their lives.
The end of DACA is a major concern for a large segment of the LGBTQIA community. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that there are approximately 267,000 undocumented adults who identify as LGBTQ in the United States and approximately 36,000 of them have received DACA status. There are no estimates specific to the Michigan LGBTQ community, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved more than 10,000 DACA applications for Michigan residents.
Rescinding DACA will have immediate negative consequences for those currently covered by the program. Attorney General Sessions announced that DACA status will no longer grant protection from deportation. Many undocumented LGBTQIA people could face persecution or physical harm if they are deported.
Additionally, DACA recipients will lose the work authorizations previously granted under the program. The Center for American Progress estimates that approximately 30,000 people will lose their jobs each month as their DACA status expires. Losing the ability to work legally places all DACA recipients in financial peril including LGBTQIA people who suffer higher rates of discrimination in the workplace.
President Trump’s decision to end DACA has placed the ball squarely in Congress’ court to act to protect DACA recipients. Legislative efforts underway prior to President Trump’s announcement are now urgent. Right now, there are three legislative pathways to protect DACA eligible individuals: the DREAM Act, the Bridge Act, and the Recognizing America’s Children Act.
DREAM Act Introduced by Senators Durbin and Graham in July 2017 This Act would grant a pathway to legal permanent residency and citizenship for DACA eligible individuals.
Bridge Act Introduced by Senators Durbin and Graham in January 2017. An identical version was introduced in the House. If passed, this bill would extend the DACA program for three years following its passage with the intention of finding a permanent solution during that time period.
Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act Introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). This bill would grant non-immigrant status to DACA eligible individuals. After five years in non-immigrant status, they could then file for legal permanent residency (green card) and later become naturalized US citizens. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.
But right now, if your DACA status will expire in the next six months, you can renew your status for a two-year period if you send your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before October 5, 2017. For more information or to find a DACA workshop in your area, visit the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center’s website at www.michiganimmigrant.org.