Viewpoint – Congress, fix DACA before time runs out

By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief

The deadline for Congress to pass a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is almost here, and though no measure has been passed, not all hope is lost.

For those unfamiliar with DACA, the program offers protections for immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. Last September, President Donald Trump rescinded the program and set its expiration date for March 5.

Six months later, people are wondering what’s taking legislators so long to pass a permanent solution? It’s not for a lack of trying.

On Feb. 15, three approaches to make DACA permanent were voted on in the Senate but failed. Before that, two different bipartisan compromises were passed but were killed by the president.

The urgency to pass a permanent solution seems to have dropped, likely due to the ongoing court battles that will keep DACA in place beyond the March 5 deadline. Two separate federal courts have blocked the president from ending the program, which is why not all hope is lost for the Dreamers.

A spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said DACA will continue to operate on the terms set in place before it was rescinded back in September until further notice. In fact, the agency is still accepting renewal applications for people whose DACA status expired after Trump started seeking to end it, according to NPR.

Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Dreamers who don’t commit crimes will not be a priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Even without DACA, felons, terrorism suspects and those with outstanding deportation orders would continue to be higher priorities for ICE, but that doesn’t mean the risk of deportation wouldn’t go up for Dreamers if DACA ends.

But without it, many will lose the right to be lawfully in the U.S., which will result in them losing the right to work or go to school and make employers more hesitant to hire them.

Detention and deportation might not be immediate or occur at all, but their livelihoods are still at risk.

It’s imperative that federal legislators get back to the drawing board and focus on finding a bipartisan solution that even the president can’t say no to.