In seeking racial reconciliation, we begin to understand each other through dialogue and relationships. This blog is part of a series that explores the issues facing our world today.
They come to church with us. They pray with us. They work with us. They’re our friends, our family. Eleven million undocumented immigrants live among us in the United States. But what will happen as one presidential administration transitions into the next? We don’t know.
What we can do is break down the policies that have taken place in the past several years and look ahead at what is at stake for our undocumented neighbors.
Who are the Dreamers?
Dreamers are those eligible for legal (but not permanent) residence in the United States after an executive action by President Barack Obama called DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
They would be people Kelsey Burke, who wrote of how her mother brought her to the United States from Honduras when she was ten years old, smuggling them in by truck and a perilous walk through the night.
Kelsey had no say in her own undocumented immigration; she just followed her mother.
As she grew older, she realized she could not drive legally, work legally or go to college legally. After she was granted temporary protection status, she was able to go to college and get a degree. Her brother was deported.
Kids like Kelsey are those who could benefit from DACA, which provided for a two-year, renewable reprieve for those younger than 31 who entered the United States when they were 16 years old or younger. DACA also granted Dreamers work permits.
Dreamers come from all over the world – Latin America, the Middle East, Asia – and those registered for relief currently number about 740,000.
Kelsey, who graduated from college in 2010, says she wants to spend her life to “help others pursue their passion, to fight for their dreams and to make a positive difference so that we may find a pathway to citizenship.”
What about the parents of Dreamers?
The consequences of enacting only DACA were that undocumented youth could stay while their parents still faced the threat of deportation. The possibility hovered, then, that varying residency statuses could rip families apart.
As a result, another executive action called DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, was proposed as an executive action that would give residency to parents of American citizens and lawful residents who have lived in the United States since 2010. It’s thought DAPA would have affected the status of at least 3.6 million undocumented immigrants. Those eligible for DAPA would also need to have completed a high school equivalency certificate or be enrolled in school.
A 4-4 tie by the U.S. Supreme Court last June reverted to a decision made in federal court in Texas, meaning a halt to DAPA applications and an expanded version of DACA. Parents of Dreamers would no longer have a way to be protected from deportation.
What will happen to the Dreamers?
We don’t know. President-elect Donald Trump has said he’ll roll back President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration. However, though he did not say he wouldn’t rescind DACA, Trump appeared to soften his stance regarding existing Dreamers in a recent interview with Time magazine.
“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” he said. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
A lawmaker who attended a meeting between Obama and Trump told Politico in early January the president brought up the Dreamers with Trump, advocating for their protection and sending a message that “those are good kids who didn’t do anything wrong.”
Resources: In “Enrique’s Journey,” Sonia Nazario gives a gripping account of the harrowing trek of an 11-year-old boy, who risked death by railroad and more perils in his voyage from Honduras to the United States to find his mother, who had left years earlier to find work that could feed her starving family.
To find out more about DACA and DAPA, check out U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the American Immigration Council.
Questions: Some of our families chose to America. Some of our ancestors were forced. What do you know of your heritage and how you and your family ended up in America? How was your race and culture received at the time? What linkages can you draw from the immigration or forced migration of other people groups to your own?