In 2012, the Obama administration introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed recipients to receive work authorizations and temporary protection from deportation when membership renewed every two years. This was passed in response to the failure of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in Congress. Those who are impacted by both the DACA program and the DREAM Act are commonly known as Dreamers. In 2017, the Trump administration ordered an end to the DACA program, leaving thousands of young adults at risk for deportation and the loss of work authorizations.
Who is Eligible for the DACA Program?
Not every young person is eligible for the program. In order to be eligible, a person must have arrived in the United States before they turned 16 years old and lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. One should also have been younger than 30 years old at the time of the policy initiation in 2012. These individuals must undergo background and biometric checks, have their fingerprints taken, and provide evidence of living in the U.S. at the prescribed times, as well as their school records.
Recent Supreme Court Decision on the DACA Program
On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Trump administration’s resignation of the DACA program in 2017 as unlawful, garnering a major victory to its recipients. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Dreamers face great uncertainty in the current political climate as the Trump administration may still pass another executive order ending it. Unless Congress creates legislation to provide a legal pathway for these individuals to obtain permanent residency status and citizenship, they will have to live with the uncertainty of revocation of their immigration status.
Is the DACA Program Successful?
The DACA program was seemingly very successful as studies showed that 91 percent of DACA program recipients were employed, pursued higher education, earned increased wages, and obtained driver’s licenses. This led to safe communities and higher tax revenues in areas where they lived. In spite of the success, Dreamers risk not being considered for employment due to the fear of deportation. DACA program recipients include front line workers, such as medical professionals, nurses, grocery store employees, childcare providers, and first responders. Since the Trump administration issued the executive order ending the DACA program, enrollment has fallen.
Why are Employers Reluctant to Offer Employment to Dreamers?
In the current political climate where a DACA program recipient runs the risk of being deported, many employers do not want to offer employment. Large employers often ask potential applicants about their eligibility to work in the U.S. and often do not proceed to interview Dreamers as they do not want to invest time and money on training workers whose long-term prospects of working in the U.S. are uncertain. Additionally, employers do not want to risk getting into long-term immigration hassles by hiring them.
Lawsuits Against the DACA Program
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed several lawsuits against companies that rejected DACA program applicants for employment. Several companies, such as Bank of America and Northwestern Mutual, have settled such lawsuits. Currently, there are several lawsuits filed against employers, including Proctor & Gamble and M&T Bank. The lawsuits are based on the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1886, prohibiting alienage discrimination of a person because they are not a U.S citizen.
In the Proctor & Gamble lawsuit, the presiding judge denied a summary judgment motion, deeming Proctor & Gamble’s policy of not hiring DACA program applicants based on their immigration status as facially discriminatory and in violation of civil rights. Proctor & Gamble argued that it acted lawfully by basing its hiring practices on long-term prospects, and DACA program applicants did not meet the hiring criteria. Due to the pending lawsuit, Proctor & Gamble claimed that it had revised its hiring practices, but it remains to be seen whether any DACA program recipients have actually been hired.
What is the Immigration and Nationality Act?
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), certain work-authorized individuals are allowed to obtain relief from national origin discrimination. The classification includes:
- Nationals of the U.S.
- Permanent residents
- Lawful temporary residents
However, DACA program recipients do not fit into these categories. Nevertheless, case law has determined that denying employment of DACA program recipients constitutes alienage discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and codified as 42 U.S.C section 1981.
Many Dreamers are stuck in limbo due to the current political environment. Employers value their diversity and bilingual speaking skills and are not averse to hiring them. However, the Trump administration’s current policies to end the program have intensified hiring concerns for fear of entanglement in immigration issues and reluctance to waste resources.
DACA program recipients are burdened by these policy shifts. If one is concerned about their current immigration status and needs legal advice, consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. Immigration law is extremely complex if not applied properly, so it is important to obtain legal counsel.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Maintain Their Immigration Status
Dreamers are facing many immigration-related challenges during this time. If you are concerned about your immigration status, consult one of our Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. For an initial consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-925-4435. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.