DACA Seven Years Later: Courts, Legislators, and Voters All Hold Key to its Future

Immigration activists stage a protest. Photo: Alex Wong, AFP

Story Behind DACA

In 2007, Barack Obama campaigned as a candidate in favor of immigration reform. However, after Democrats lost the majority in both legislative houses two years into Obama’s presidency, it became impossible to push immigration reform without Republican support.

DREAMers and DACA

The mobilization by undocumented migrants who arrived in the United States as children, the so-called DREAMers, was effective in winning broad support among the public. While Republican representatives were not persuaded, DREAMers pushed Obama to announce the Deferred [Deportation] Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) seven years ago.

Is DACA Constitutional and Legal?

Many ask whether DACA is constitutional. Citizenship is mainly mentioned in the constitution regarding qualifications to hold an elected office. The bill of rights talks about “the people,” but it does not specify whether the rights it establishes apply only to U.S. citizens. It states that “no person” should be unduly oppressed by the state. The language can be interpreted as applying to any person living in the United States.

Photo: Robyn Beck, AFP

DACA’s Legal Proceedings

While on the campaign train, Trump promised to dismantle DACA. Eight months after taking office, Trump announced the rescission of DACA. However, the policy remains. Courts halted the repeal, questioning the reasoning offered by the Trump administration for canceling the program.

DACA’s Future

If DACA is considered unconstitutional by the current members of the Supreme Court, many young people raised and educated in the United States will lose their jobs and face deportation.

Ernesto Castañeda

Associate Professor at American University in Washington, DC, and author of Social Movements 1768–2018, Building Walls, and A Place to Call Home: Immigrant Exclusion and Urban Belonging in New York, Paris, and Barcelona.

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Ernesto Castañeda

Ernesto Castañeda

Ernesto Castañeda is the author of “A Place to Call Home” and “Building Walls.”