Prior to a 1982 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Plyler v. Doe, education laws in Texas authorized schools to withhold funds and deny enrollment to students who had not entered the U.S. legally. The Plyler in the little-known case was the superintendent of Tyler Independent School District, James Plyler, who took the law even further and directed school officials to begin charging $1000 tuition per year to undocumented students. A local lawyer was notified that children were being told they couldn’t go to school. The lawyer, in conjunction with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), filed a suit on behalf of four families, and to make a long story short, the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court found for the defendants, saying the Texas law violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ruling stated, "If the State is to deny a discrete group of innocent children the free public education that it offers to other children residing within its borders, that denial must be justified by a showing that it furthers some substantial state interest. No such showing was made here." Writing for the majority, Justice William Brennan described the situation as, "imposing special disabilities upon groups disfavored by virtue of circumstances beyond their control [and which] suggests the kind of 'class or caste' treatment that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to abolish."
Thus it was fitting that on June 15th 2012, 30 years to the day of the ruling in Plyler v. Doe, President Obama, in a Rose Garden speech, announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA. The program was greeted immediately by criticism from Republicans, calling it an abuse of executive power. DACA was formally implemented as a policy memorandum from then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to several government entities, namely U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On August 15th 2012, USCIS began accepting applications. Obama tried to expand DACA in 2014, but Texas along with 25 other states filed a suit in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas seeking to prohibit the expansion of DACA and a similar program Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). An injunction was issued blocking the expansion, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court in United States v. Texas.
Below are general guidelines for requesting DACA status:
You may request DACA if you:
View the video below to learn more about the DACA application process.
Now it’s 2017 and there’s a new sheriff in town. As a candidate Trump announced his intention to end the DACA program, but has often sent mixed signals on the subject. Two high-profile cases in the spring saw two DACA recipients arrested and detained, leading to questions about the security of DACA under the new administration. There are also countless stories of flagrant mishandling of the law. (Click here to read about one such case.) The government grants DACA "as a promise to a person that they are protected from deportation," said the National Immigration Law Center's Josh Stehlik. "There are an increasing number of cases under the Trump administration in which ICE simply ignores DACA."
In June, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under then Director John Kelly rescinded President Obama’s order to expand DACA and said the current program would be reviewed. And now it seems things have come full circle with Texas at the epicenter. This week officials at DHS began reviewing the status of DACA. This news along with Trump’s waffling has sparked fear in immigrant communities, particularly with the nearly 800,000 individuals who have received as part of DACA two-year, renewable work permits. Their concern is not unfounded. For one thing, former DHS secretary John Kelly (now White House Chief of Staff) has said in the past that he doesn’t think DACA would hold up to legal scrutiny. Even more significant, Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was in the Senate had been a strong opponent of the program, which he considers to be unconstitutional. But the real pressure is coming from outside the administration. A group of conservative attorneys general from eleven states with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton leading the charge have threatened to sue the Trump Administration if DACA is not ended by September 5th of this year. Only six Republican congressmen have expressed recent public support of DACA, and none of them are from Pennsylvania.
The original Texas court ruling back in 1982 found that the Texas law was "directed against children, and impose[d] its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control”, namely the fact of their having been brought illegally into the U. S. by their parents. These are young, hard-working people, many of whom have never called any other country but the United States home. If the program ends, these kids could again be subject to deportation. Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council under President Obama said, “There is no downside to DACA. It has allowed young immigrants to flourish and contribute, both socially and in crass economic terms.” (Studies show that DACA protected immigrants contribute billions to the U.S. economy.)
“President Trump should be trying to end the injustices of the US immigration system instead of adding to them by expelling the ‘Dreamers,’” says Jasmine Tyler, U.S. advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Congress should promptly enact legislation that would bring security to the lives of these immigrant youth.”
Let's be clear. Ending a program that could possibly lead to the deportation of over 800,000 Latinos has nothing to do with "unlawful amnesty" as many Republicans described the DACA program at its inception. It's nothing less than a clarion call to white nationalist ideologues. Let us send a message that's equally loud and clear to our representatives-Aqui estamos y no nos vamos!
posted by Amy Levengood