DACA did not confer permanent residency or citizenship. It is a promise by the federal government to defer the removal or deportation of qualified applicants. During the deferment period, approved applicants receive employment authorization cards and social security numbers.
These enabled hundreds of thousands of recipients to obtain driver’s licenses for the first time, attend colleges, start businesses and live outside the shadows of illegality.
Since DACA’s inception, it has become the ground zero for the political battles on immigration. The program has gone through cycles of suspension, reinstatement, injunction, and uncertainty. It currently remains suspended by order of a Texas judge declaring it unconstitutional in July 2021. The judge issued this order not long after the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Trump administration’s cancelation of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.”
This court order prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from accepting and processing new DACA applications. Meanwhile, those with existing approvals are uncertain of their future. Their lives exist in limbo while they wait for lawmakers to save them.
Democrats and Republicans have made promises to this group. Yet, neither party is willing to spend a sizeable amount of political capital to solve the DACA debacle. Both parties see the plights of DREAMers as controversial, an issue that fires up their respective bases on opposite sides of the debate. Even Democrats do not consider the issue a political winner, especially since the DREAMers cannot vote. They offer no immediate political returns. So, Democrats have not exerted momentous efforts to solve the issue.
Last month, new hopes were dashed when senate parliamentarian ruled that congressional Democrats could not legally include immigration reform into the budget reconciliation bill. This decision echoed like a bomb within the undocumented immigrants’ community. It was like an earthquake with invisible victims.
A client asks me afterward, “What’s next? I have been waiting for 12 years.”
“Until a president signs an immigration bill, the wait continues,” I replied.
Emmanuel Olawale is an attorney based in Westerville, Ohio and the author of “The Flavor of Favor: Quest for the American Dream. A Memoir.”