from: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
written by Debbie Levy
illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016
Every year, thousands of cases are filed with the Supreme Court, and this year the Court has agreed to hear 55.
If the people involved in a case disagree with a lower court’s decision, the case can go to appeal, again and again. That is, a higher and higher court listens to the case until the ultimate deciders in the land, the nine Supreme Court Justices, agree (or don’t agree) to hear the case. Sometimes the Justices agree with the lower court, sometimes they don’t. But their decisions are always news.
Last Tuesday, (11/12/19) the nine Justices heard Trump v. NAACP, McAleenan v. Vidal, and Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, better known to all of us as the DACA (Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program) case.
Sometimes called DREAMers, almost 670,000 people were brought here illegally by their parents. Many are adults now and have been here for a long time. Some came as infants and don’t remember living anywhere else. Most work. Most go to college. Most are contributing members of their communities. Many didn’t even know of their status until they applied for a driver’s license or filled out college applications and discovered they did not have a Social Security Number. DACA gave them temporary status to remain here legally.
A long history of compassion lead to DACA. In 1956, President Eisenhower allowed foreign-born orphans who were adopted, but fell outside quota limits of the day, to remain here legally. In 1958, he granted asylum to tens of thousands of refugees from the Hungarian revolution. Both programs ended when Congress passed laws enabling all these people to seek lawful permanent status.
President Reagan established the Family Fairness Program in 1987. Children of parents who were in the process of gaining legal status were allowed entry. In 1990, President Bush extended the program to include spouses of those seeking legal status. Melania Trump’s parents gained permanent legal status in 2018, when she used this expanded program, referred to as “chain migration” by her husband, the president.
The Violence Against Women Act gave victims refuge beginning in 1994, and provided a pathway to lawful permanent residency. The Act was renewed and expanded four times since it began, “to include victims of human trafficking and victims of crimes such as domestic violence.” uscis.gov (Case 3:17-cv-05211-WHA Document 234 Filed 01/09/18 Page 5 of 49)
By the time DACA was introduced in 2012, deferred actions had become well-established in the executive branch and recognized as such by Congress and the Supreme Court.
DACA offered temporary protection from deportation without a path to citizenship. Since August 15, 2012, people have applied for acceptance into the program. They had to meet several criteria:
brought to the United States before they were 16 years old
present in the United States on June 15, 2012
continuously residing in the United States for at least the prior
enrolled in school, graduated from high school, obtained a GED
or been honorably discharged from the United States military
or Coast Guard
do not pose a threat to national security or public safety
After filling out several forms and providing lots of substantiating documents, prospective recipients’ cases were reviewed and either granted DACA status or not. If status was granted, several benefits kicked in.
They were eligible to receive employment authorization by
applying for social security numbers and become
legitimate taxpayers and contributing members of our
The status provided a measure of safety from deportation
for a period of two years, until a renewal was granted.
DACA recipients could apply for permission to travel
overseas and return to the US.
On September 5, 2017, Trump ordered the program phased out. After July 17, 2019, no new applications were considered. A complicated description of how to renew an individual’s DACA status is provided on the Homeland Security Website. It is dependent on when the original grant expired and when or if a renewal request was filed. https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-response-january-2018-preliminary-injunction
Jeff Sessions, Attorney General in 2017, claimed the DACA recipients were lawbreakers who adversely impacted the wages and employment of native-born Americans. (NYT 9/6/17) In the same article, he claimed DACA recipients were the cause of the surge of unaccompanied minors coming into our country. Fact-checkers have proved both of these claims to be false.
So where are we now? And where are the DREAMers? DACA has lots of public support and broad bi-partisan support. Attorneys for both sides presented (in an oversimplified recap, I admit) whether to call DACA in Trump’s words, “unlawful and unconstitutional” or in Justice Sotomayor’s words, “This is not about the law. It is about our choice to destroy lives.”
In any case, a decision will probably come down this summer.
-—stay curious! (and optimistic)