President Obama implemented the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) in 2012. The policy temporarily shields immigrants who came to the US as a child from deportation. President Trump attempted unsuccessfully to terminate the program in 2017; now its future is being determined by the courts.
Kathy Santamaria Mendez is a senior at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Born in El Salvador, Mendez is passionate about immigration law, and has four years of experience working on related cases. She explains that DACA is currently being reviewed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mendez says the problem isn’t with the policy itself, but with the way it was created.
“The argument right now is that DACA wasn't put in place in the proper order,” she said. “So basically when Obama was president, they released a memo, which is basically just an announcement that this program was gonna happen. And so the argument right now is that that wasn't the proper way to do it. The proper way was to do actual federal regulation, allow for time, for public comments… and so that was recently done.”
Under President Biden the Department of Homeland Security recently codified DACA through a proper federal process. The regulations, which are very similar to DACA’s initial policy, take effect on October 31st. Mendez says it was a missed opportunity to expand the policy to be more inclusive.
However, a nationwide injunction put in place by a Federal District Court in Texas prevents any new applications for DACA status and threatens the future of the legislation.
“So at any point now we can hear news on weather the judge is gonna rule on DACA, whether he thinks that the Biden administration has done enough and if he were to decide to cancel DACA, I am pretty sure the Biden administration would want to appeal that which means challenge that argument to the Supreme Court.”
Estefany Mejia is a student at Normandale community college and enrolled in DACA. She says the constant uncertainty is a source of anxiety.
“Because I wasn't sure if I was going be able to continue working and also going to school,” she explained. “There was a little bit of hope of maybe having a permanent stay but that has also not happened, so it has affected me. Every two years I have to renew, and I always have anxiety over it because I don’t know how it’s gonna be.”
Mejia is not alone; approximately 4,890 Minnesotans are enrolled in DACA. According to the Migration Policy Institute, an additional 3,000 Minnesotans could qualify if new applications were accepted. While the vast majority of “Dreamers” are from Central and South America, Dreamers also hail from places like Poland, Korea, India, and the Philippines.