This fall, the Trump administration officially announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Last week, the president and Republican lawmakers were attempting to come up with a solution for the undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. An agreement on funding and a permanent replacement plan for DACA youth needs to be reached by January 19, 2018.
The DACA umbrella
Over 800,000 undocumented youths fell under the DACA protection. Although commonly misunderstood, deferred action does not grant legal status. Under DACA, children who entered the U.S. illegally were protected from immediate deportation by requesting deferred action for two years. The action can be renewed.
In order to be eligible for DACA, the youth needed to enter the U.S. before their 16th birthday. DACA also has education requirements and the youth needed to have a high school diploma, GED or an honorable discharge from the military. Also, in order to be eligible, the applicants could not have a criminal record.
Hitting a wall
The president has said that any immigration reform would also need to include funding for a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border. The Trump administration has requested $18 billion to add several hundred miles of wall to the existing physical barrier. In addition, the administration wants $15 billion more to increase immigration enforcement staffing and technology.
The negotiations have become a balancing tightrope between Trump’s demand for funding for the wall and Democrats’ insistence on citizenship for youth protected under DACA. If an agreement is not reached by the deadline, Democrats have voiced a willingness to have a government shutdown.
A final decision on DACA legislation will impact the lives of almost a million young adults. For most of these youths the U.S. is the only home they have known. They are already Americans in every regard except on paper. If the DACA program is allowed to formally expire in March 2018 without a replacement program in place, those protected under DACA permits will start to lose their protection.