Blog: Latino Ed Beat

More Efforts Proposed in Congress to Help Undocumented Youth

"Interviewing DREAMers" panel at EWA's 2016 National Seminar in Boston

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — or DACA — continues to make headlines, with several bills introduced in Congress this month aimed at protecting undocumented young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and providing them with a path to citizenship.

DACA provides recipients access to higher education, putting educators on the front lines of the debate over undocumented youth. Many colleges and universities have created special websites or designated personnel to help DACA students navigate college and feel safe on campus.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, introduced the American Hope Act of 2017, a bill that has gained more than 100 co-sponsors.

“We fought for DACA and we will defend DACA. And the defense includes putting on the table legislation that charts a way forward,” Gutierrez said in a press release.

Also last week, House and Senate versions of the DREAM Act of 2017 — aimed at granting permanent legal status to young people who turned 18 before arriving in the U.S. and met certain criteria — were introduced with bipartisan support. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., introduced the House bill. In the Senate, Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, teamed up on a bill.

In a letter to Graham and Durbin, Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, praised both senators for “reaching across the aisle to improve the lives of vulnerable young people.” Others who applauded the bipartisan effort included the Hispanic civil rights organization LULAC and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

In the meantime, Greg Chen, AILA’s director of government relations, urged President Donald Trump to “protect DACA recipients by announcing once, and for all, that he will keep the DACA program in place until a bill that protects Dreamers becomes law.”

On July 21, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the attorneys general in 18 other states and the District of Columbia also urged Trump to uphold DACA, and vowed to help defend the policy against lawsuits from other states opposed to the program.

Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, has threatened to sue the Trump administration if DACA is not phased out by Sept. 5. Texas has been joined by Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

“Recently, I led a 10-state coalition asking President Trump to rescind the Obama Administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,” Paxton wrote in a USA Today editorial July 28. “I did so because the program represents an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power by the Executive Branch.”

Last week, 15 people, including several DACA recipients, were arrested in Austin while protesting outside Paxton’s office.

Trump told CNN in a July 12 interview that phasing out DACA “is a decision that’s very, very hard to make.’’ There are nearly 800,000 DACA recipients.