Minn. 'Dreamers' await president's DACA decision

In 2012, President Barack Obama used an executive order to launch Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Now President Trump is on the verge of determining their fate.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, including 6,000 here in Minnesota, are anxiously awaiting a decision from President Donald Trump about their status in this country.

On Friday, the president said he would announce his decision by the end of the Labor Day weekend. When asked if "Dreamers" should be worried, the president paused and said, "We love the Dreamers. We love everybody."

The "Dreamers" are young immigrants who won temporary protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program initiated in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama.

It was available to those who were brought to the nation as children, under the age of 16, by their parents. DACA was limited to those who entered as children before 2007. They must renew those permits every two years.

"There's a lot of misconceptions, that somehow we've given them Green Cards or citizenship even," John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, told KARE.

"The reality is people got two years of legal limbo, temporary protection from deportation and the opportunity to work. There's no path, not way to take that DACA status and apply for a Green Card."

Keller said that in addition to the 6,000 Minnesotans who've enrolled in DACA, there are 7,000 others who've applied and are waiting for their background checks to be processed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of the Dept. of Homeland Security.

"Our youngest client came here at the age of 11 months. We're talking about children who literally grew up in the United States," Keller explained.

In Minnesota those who gain a work permit through DACA can also get a temporary driver's license, but it can't be used to gain other forms of permanent ID.

Keller said the ability to come out into the open and receive a work permit has helped those young adults, and their employers during a time when Minnesota faces labor shortages driven in part by retiring Baby Boomers. 

"We've seen a dramatic increase in people who are working and going to college," Kelly said. "National polls show anywhere from 90 to 97 percent of the Dreamers are either in the workforce, or school, or both."

During his presidential campaign, President Trump promised to take a hard line of those who entered the nation without permission, including those in the DACA program who were brought here by their parents.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pressed for the elimination of the program, and Sessions' home state of Alabama is one of nine states that are threatening to sue the federal government to end DACA.

The heads of many of the nation's largest corporations -- including Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Best Buy and Wells Fargo --  have signed onto a letter urging the president to salvage the DACA program, rather than placing the 780,000 young immigrants at risk of deportation.

"At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees," the executives wrote, pointing out that many of the Dreamers have bought cars and homes and started businesses.

"Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions."

Many analysts believe that Mr. Trump will end DACA, but allow a six-month grace period to allow Congress enough time to debate and pass a plan that replaces DACA, or at the very least establishes a legal framework for those young immigrants.

Those who signed up for DACA were promised their information would not be shared with the enforcement wing of Homeland Security, but there are worries that firewall may also be taken down by the Trump Administration.

"When the memorandum was created it said if you send in this sensitive information for a benefit for a work card, we will not share it with the enforcement side of Homeland Security," Keller remarked.

"And it's part of what we as lawyers, and other people working with the community, had to explain; that it’s safe to send this information in to the government." 

© 2017 KARE-TV


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