September 5, 2017

For five years Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) shielded young people brought to the United States as children from deportation and made them eligible to apply for work authorization. Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he is ending that program.

This news is devastating for the roughly 800,000 DACA recipients, often called Dreamers, who consider the United States their home. An estimated 30,000 residents of New York City – friends, neighbors, coworkers, family, and classmates – have been able to work and live with relative security thanks to DACA, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. NYLAG alone has helped with nearly 2,000 DACA cases.

Ultimately, the end of DACA affects all New Yorkers and all Americans. It is a human tragedy of extraordinary proportions, even with the announcement that there will be a six-month delay in enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that those with current two-year work permits will be able to continue working until they expire and that renewals will be accepted until October 5, 2017. New applications will not be accepted.

Although NYLAG supports congressional action to give lasting protection to Dreamers as soon as possible, it is dangerous to assume that action will be taken and all will be well. The very impetus of DACA was Congress’ failure to act on the issue. The DREAM Act, intended to address this issue, was introduced in 2001. Sixteen years later Congress is still deliberating on new iterations of the bill.

It is imperative that we continue to fight for DACA and support Dreamers, who have made incredible contributions to U.S. communities and the economy. DACA beneficiaries reported that their wages rose 45 percent as a result of the program, translating to greater tax revenue and higher economic growth. The end of the program will reverse these gains as the beneficiaries are stripped of their work authorization.

But this is about more than numbers. Every single Dreamer is a human being with a life that they have built here in the United States.

As we did before DACA, NYLAG will defend the rights of all New Yorkers regardless of their immigration status, and we will seek creative solutions for DACA recipients. All people have due process rights, and the New York legal community will see anyone who wishes to violate those rights in court. We also will support litigation to challenge the repeal of DACA and encourage legislation to protect the Dreamers through congressional action.

It remains unclear exactly what will happen at the end of six months. However, we strongly recommend that all Dreamers speak with an attorney or accredited representative to see if they may be eligible for other forms of immigration relief. In particular, anyone who has ever been in immigration court or who has been arrested by the police should speak with an attorney immediately because they may be at higher risk.

As always, it is important to avoid being victimized by fraudulent immigration scams and immigrants should make sure to look for qualified legal representatives.  There are many organizations, including NYLAG, that provide free legal services and know your rights and safety planning resources.