BY EDGAR ENRIQUEZ –
President Donald Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) last month, leaving the 800,000 recipients of the program to file for extensions and hope that they won’t be deported.
The DACA program was created under President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012 and protected children who came to the U.S. illegally – most often with their parents – from deportation. Also, the program allowed applicants to obtain a social security number and enabled them to enroll in college, work and get a driver’s license. There are 22,000 DACA recipients in New Jersey.But while they wait for news of their extension applications, there are four bills currently being considered in Congress that could help the Dreamers – as they’re often called – the Dream Act, Recognizing America’s Children Act, The BRIDGE Act, and the Enlist Act.
The Dream Act of 2017
According to Farrin R. Anello, a senior staff attorney and member of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the Dream Act of 2017 – a legislative piece that has bipartisan support – is currently in Congress and has not yet come up for a vote.
“Although not perfect, it is stronger than DACA,” said Anello at a workshop held by the William Paterson University Committee to Support Undocumented Students and Workers. “It’s a long process, with a lot of fees along the way, but it is a path to citizenship that we do have right now.”
According to Washington Post writer Amber Phillips, the Dream Act of 2017 would allow individuals to obtain conditional permanent residency if they have been in the country for at least four years and are younger than age 18.
Current DACA holders will be eligible to apply for status under the Dream Act.
“After eight years as a conditional permanent resident, someone is qualified to apply for a green card, and after having that green card for five years they would apply for citizenship,” Anello said.
Applicants must maintain a job, stay in school, and have no disqualifying criminal convictions, she said.
The RAC (Recognizing America’s Children) Act
The The RAC Act is like the Dream Act, but it differs in qualifications such as age, and the number of years an individual must have been in the states, according to Phillips, the Washington Post writer. Applicants are eligible if they have lived in the U.S. at least five years and arrived before the age 16.
The Dream Act or the RAC Act are the two most likely to get passed by Congress, wrote Phillips. The latter could be voiced to conservatives as a stricter process to obtain citizenship.
Both the Dream Act or the RAC Act would become permanent pieces of legislation that will accommodate the Dreamers who have established or continue to strive to contribute as Americans.
The BRIDGE Act
“Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy Act – the BRIDGE Act – is a bipartisan effort to codify the protections afforded by DACA,” according to HuffPost writers Richard V. Rodriguez and Gidget Benitez.
The Dreamers will not have to fear deportation if Congress enacts the BRIDGE Act, however, it will not provide a pathway to citizenship.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, the BRIDGE Act will allow – for a maximum of three years – work authorization and provisionally protected presence for individuals who qualify or already have DACA.
The Enlist Act
This bill is popular among both Democrats and Republicans – the Dreamers can earn legal status by serving in the U.S. military, wrote Phillips of the Washington Post, however, it not the most feasible method of protection.
The Dreamers may not want to serve or be physically qualified for the military. According to Phillips, the Enlist Act serves as a part and not the entirety of the solution for the Dreamers.
Feature photo on front page: March and rally/protest in response to the rescission of Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in New York City on Sept. 9. Photo provided by Rhododendrites (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons