Desis redouble pressure on Congress on DACA’s 10th anniversary

Ritu Jha-

The business community and immigration groups are urging Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that provides permanent legal status to those in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the 10th anniversary of which falls on June 15.

An executive order by then President Barack Obama on June 15, 2012, had stated that those who came to the United States as children and met several guidelines could request consideration of deferred action for two years, subject to renewal. They were also eligible for work authorization. Anyone requesting DACA had to be younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012. These people, also called Dreamers, also needed to be at least 15 years or older to request DACA, and have never been in removal proceedings.

This was the text of a letter from the National Immigration Forum and signed by representatives of more than 45 companies and organizations, to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

“For 10 years, DACA has offered hope and promise by shielding hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from deportation and providing them with the ability to freely live and work in the U.S. These temporary protections have been invaluable, but ultimately Congress needs to enact legislation that makes them permanent for the existing DACA population and other Dreamers who meet DACA’s work, education, and good character eligibility requirements.”

Lakshmi Sridaran, director of national policy and advocacy, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) told indica, “We are happy to mark 10 years of DACA, and note that it was a crucial step forward, but it is not sufficient. DACA recipients, TPS holders, asylum-seekers, refugees, and all undocumented migrants deserve a clear path to citizenship.”

She said that according to the Migration Policy Institute, as of December 31, 2020 there are just over 3,200 DACA recipients who are immigrants from India and Pakistan.

“We know there are many more South Asians who are eligible, but have been prevented from seeking this status after the multiple threats over the last 10 years to end DACA and deport people,” Sridaran said.

“We were not at the meeting with VP Harris, but we join United We Dream and our other allies who demanded this administration and Congress provide permanent protections for all immigrants now. Temporary protections like DACA are not enough.”

In a press statement, Neil Makhija, executive director of Indian American Impact, said that over a decade ago, immigrant leaders and allies came together to offer basic legal protections to undocumented children, “Dreamers, who are American in every sense of the word but for the legal status our broken immigration system confers on them.

“Our failure to legislate reform in the past decade has opened up a doorway for constant GOP attacks on the program created to protect DACA recipients. Congress must act this year to release DACA recipients from the legal limbo and produce a legitimate pathway to citizenship for well over half a million people. We also need to expand DACA to include those who had temporary legal status as dependents of H-1B and other long-term visa holders. Over 200,000 Dreamers — mostly Indian American — were not included in DACA.

“The impact of bold action now — not tomorrow — will provide a clear path forward and demonstrate this Congress’ ability to come through on their audacious pledges.”

Though the Biden Administration supports DACA, the program is in limbo. In July 16, 2021 the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Judge Hanen, in Texas v. United States, held that the DACA policy “is illegal,” leading to a halt on the issuance of work permit or a temporary legal status to Dreamers.

After the court ruling, Vice President Kamala Harris assured DACA recipients in her office on July 22, 2021 that they were “American,” and that the administration would fight for their pathway to citizenship. The administration is yet to act on that promise.

According to SAALT, more than 5,000 South Asian DACA recipients and 20,000 Indians alone remain eligible for DACA. There are more than 600,000 DACA recipients nationwide.

The letter states that Dreamers make essential contributions to America’s economic well-being and are vital to the workforce. Approximately 343,000 DACA recipients have jobs as health care providers, educators, and critical workers helping to protect America’s food supply chain. Furthermore, DACA recipients and their households start businesses, create jobs, and contribute $9.4 billion in tax revenue to federal, state, and local governments.

President Obama tweeted June 15: “For all they have done for our nation, and all they will continue to do, DACA recipients and their families deserve better. On the 10th anniversary of DACA, let’s redouble our efforts to build a commonsense immigration system that offers these Americans a pathway to citizenship.”