Citizens wrestle with potential repeal of DACA

The Trump Administration announced on Sept. 5 that it will be rescinding DACA, an executive order put into place by President Obama in 2012, and those affected, including residents of the Cedar Valley, are wrestling with how this will impact their lives.

Full implementation of the rescission was delayed six months in order to give Congress time to decide how to deal with the population previously eligible under the policy.

DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an American immigration policy that provides minors who enter the country illegally with the opportunity to apply for a renewable two year period in which they can receive deferred action from deportation and are made eligible for a work permit.

President Obama controversially passed the executive order back in 2012 after his DREAM Act Bill failed to overcome a bipartisan filibuster in Congress. Because of this, the individuals that fall under DACA are often times referred to as the “Dreamers.”

In order to be eligible for the program, an individual must have a high school diploma or GED, be under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, have a clean criminal record and have been brought illegally to the United States prior to the age of 16.

German Teacher and immigration lawyer Gunda Brost works with DACA recipients on a daily basis with qualifications immigrants must meet in order to apply for the program.

“We’re talking about people who have to show academic excellence or a dedication to academics; people who have to show moral, good character. Even something like a DUI would disqualify a person from applying for this program. This is for people who have no criminal history. We’re talking about people who were brought here as children that had no control over whether or not they were breaking the law.”

Brost is not alone in her frustrations with this recent executive decision. Nearly 2,000 leaders, including eight governors, have signed a letter asking President Trump reverse the rescission.

“The government turns around after promising that they wouldn’t deport these individuals and then subjects them to deportation. This is unjust because these people have relied on and trusted the government with their information,” Brost said.

One of the leading questions that rescinding DACA raises is the effect that it will have on the American economy.

Immigration policy analyst David Bier estimated that ending DACA could cost American businesses close to $6.3 billion. Brost also predicted the loss of DACA will affect the United States economy.

“It’s going to hurt the economy. I mean we’re talking about people in the work force. They have relied on this system, and they have started their lives. They’ve started businesses. They’ve started families, and U.S. citizens will be affected as well because these people don’t just live in a vacuum. They are married to U.S. citizens. They are children of U.S. citizens. They are brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, so we’re not just talking about undocumented people in a foreign segment of society; they are interwoven with us. They are our neighbors.”

Still, others see the political move as a step in the right direction. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the decision to rescind the program back in September, argued that DACA-eligible individuals were lawbreakers who adversely impacted the wages and employment of native-born Americans. Sessions also attributed DACA as a leading cause behind the increase in unaccompanied minors flocking to the United States from Central America.

Many conservatives agree with Sessions, arguing that in addition to immigrants disrupting the American way of life, Obama did not have the right to establish the program in the first place.

“The point here is … the president does not have the authority to waive immigration law, nor does he have the authority to create it out of thin air,” said Steve King, a Republican congressman from Iowa.

DACA’s rescission has created a great deal of discussion among individuals in the Cedar Valley. On Sept. 18, the University of Northern Iowa hosted an event titled Immigration 101, in which a variety of panelists spoke on the issues surrounding DACA.

Nilvia Brownson, a current student at UNI, was one of the panelists that spoke. As a DACA recipient, Brownson said her greatest fear surrounding the rescission “is getting split apart. I’ve established a life here. Millions of people have established a life here, and they have families here. My husband is a citizen, my daughter is a citizen and I am undocumented. I would be pulled out of that family unit. My biggest fear right now is the breaking up of my family. I’m absolutely terrified.”

Brownson said it was important for individuals to expand the conversation in regards to immigration.

“The DREAM act, which is why we are called Dreamers, has always been exclusively for people who were brought here as children by their parents or legal guardian through ‘no fault of their own.’ By saying this and uniting under this idea, we’re demonizing our parents for what they did, when in reality, if you think about it, I’m a mother now, and I put myself in my own mother’s situation, and I would’ve done what she did for me in a heartbeat. We demonize our parents for having brought us here without going through any legal path. It’s time that we move away from saying ‘only the children’ or ‘only people who came here by no fault of their own’ should have a pathway to citizenship because in reality everybody else has established a life here as well.”

Overall, Brownson said it is important to become educated on immigration issues in order to combat hostilities and hateful rhetoric.

“I think the main thing that we can do is debunk a lot of the ideas that cause the hostilities. All of the myths that are behind the hateful rhetoric can be debunked. It’s just a matter of educating people,”  Brownson said.

Protections for those under DACA are set to expire March 5. Individuals can apply for one last renewal through the program any time prior to Oct. 5. Those losing protection after March 5 will be considered unauthorized.

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