Somewhere between 1 and 2 million children were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents after the last major immigration reform in 1996. These kids grew up here, went to school here, built lives and families here. For nearly 25 years, they have also been political pawns living in the shadows of the only country they’ve ever known.
In every Congress from 2001 to 2012, someone introduced the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) designed to give these kids a path to citizenship. And no one made it easy. DREAMers with a criminal background are out of luck. And you have to have patience. Here’s what the DREAM Act typically required, a process that would generally take between 5 and 11 years.
Typical DREAM Timeline
In 2012, President Obama, by way of an executive order, created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program. It protected DREAMers from deportation and allowed them to get driver’s licenses and jobs and other benefits depending on their State. To qualify, undocumented aliens had to register with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Over 800,000 DREAMers did register. The vast majority of those registrations were accepted, meaning an individual had two years of protection and then had to renew.
In 2017, also by Executive Order, President Trump ended DACA. USCIS stopped taking renewals and DACA protections began to expire, depending on when they were issued.
The Executive Orders of both President Obama and President Trump have been challenged in federal court. In January 2018, the judge issued an injunction which meant DACA registrations and renewals must resume while the matter continues through the judicial system. Meanwhile, the White House asked the Supreme Court to expedite a review before the appeals process was complete. However, in January 2019, SOTUS refused to consider the case “at this time.” So as DACA stands today, DREAMers continue to live in limbo until and unless Congress passes actual law that supersedes the Executive Orders.
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