What exactly is DACA and why is everyone talking about it?

In 2017, a program called DACA has been in the news a lot. It’s become such a common noun that few articles explain what it is, so I’m going to. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It refers to people whose parents brought them to the U.S. without immigration papers, when they were under the age of 18. It allows these people, often called Dreamers*, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and allows them eligibility for a work permit.

Started in 2012, it has allowed Dreamers under the age of 31 to apply for DACA status, after which they were vetted for any criminal history or threat to national security. As of 2017 over 787,000 Dreamers had been approved for DACA.

Because President Obama created DACA as an executive order (without congressional approval), Trump was able to cancel it with an executive order and yesterday, on 5 September 2017, he did. If Congress does nothing, most of the Dreamers’ permits will begin to expire in 2018 and all of them will lose their DACA status by 2020. They would then be vulnerable to deportation, especially since the U.S. government now knows exactly who they are.

Trump’s action has been called “cruel,” in part because in order to apply for DACA, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants had to trust the government with their private information, hoping a future administration wouldn’t exploit that information. It remains to be seen whether or not the U.S. congress will allow DACA to lapse and for deportations to begin.

It pains and angers me to see some of the most promising young people facing the possible end of their educations, jobs and lives in the United States. Trump’s action is a reminder that many Americans would be happy to see all brown people expelled from the U.S. including those of us who have been here for generations.

*The term Dreamers comes from the failed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2001. It would have allowed Dreamers a chance at permanent legal residency.