#HereToStay: The Fight to Defend DACA Isn’t Over

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced today that the Trump administration is ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a five-year immigration program that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

The repeal is contingent upon Congress’s ability in the next six months to draft a replacement to the popular Obama-era policy, which provides nearly 800,000 youth and teens, known as “DREAMers,” with documentation that protects them from deportation and enables them to obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college and secure work permits. Until then, the Department of Homeland Security will no longer process applications for the program, and the implications for current DACA beneficiaries remains nebulous.

Angie Kim, who arrived in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant before DACA’s inception, told DemocracyNow! on Thursday that she knows “what it’s like to live life in a limbo where you don’t have the ability to work, make a living, support your family, go to school.”  With the creation of DACA in 2012, Kim was released from this state of precariousness, “and now, five years later, I think I’m sort of back in that place where my life is back in limbo.”

Kim is just one of thousands of women who are now more vulnerable to deportation, discrimination, violence, and abuse. Without DACA, countless Americans could be ripped from their homes to be sent to another country—and many DREAMers have had little to no relationship with their country of birth since the day they left. “Today’s announcement fundamentally uproots the lives of millions of people,” Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation said in a statement, “disrupts our communities and potentially ends the dreams of DACA recipients.” The organization has launched a campaign calling on Congress to immediately pass legislation restoring DACA.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the National Organization for Women reminded its followers that “DREAMers are our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, and our family.” They are also an integral part of the nation’s economy. 97 percent of DACA recipients work or go to school. To eliminate DACA would be to wrench nearly 700,000 people from the labor force, cutting the GDP by $460 billion over the next ten years.

While some see the six-month wind-down period as a sign of hope, insofar as it could potentially provide Democrats and moderate Republicans who stand behind DACA with time to galvanize greater congressional support for the program, others fear that our gridlocked Congress—whose goal as of late has been to simply keep government running—will not be able to reach a consensus. After all, it was the threat of attorneys general from 10 separate states to sue the administration unless it ends DACA that sparked recent talk of rescinding the program.

In New York on Wednesday, hundreds of DACA supporters marched to Trump Tower, demanding that the Trump administration not cancel a program that has allowed thousands of individuals to live free from fear of deportation while making positive contributions to communities across the country. All over the U.S., activists are gathering today in protest of the Trump administration’s announcement.

While the threat to end DACA has been looming for weeks, the program is still in place today. The resistance, once again, is working, but we must keep fighting—especially in states like Texas, where an estimated 120,000 undocumented youth benefit from DACA, making the state home to the second-largest grouping of DACA recipients nationwide.



Jessica Merino is a former Ms. editorial intern.