With President Barack Obama's recent announcement of his executive actions on immigration reform, millions of undocumented immigrants may now seek some form of relief from deportation. This includes additional childhood arrivals under DACA, as well as the spouses and parents of citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs). However, one significant group of immigrants has been left out of the reforms, and those are the parents of DREAMers.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is proposed legislation that never went into effect. Instead, certain criteria proposed under the DREAM act was provided for under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy announced by President Obama in 2012. Still, the moniker of DREAMers has remained, to represent those young people who were brought into the U.S. as children, struggling to succeed under unlawful status.
While the DACA program has been expanded to include additional childhood arrivals, and remove certain age barriers, as well as extending deportation deferral to spouses and parents of citizens and LPRs, it has not stretched to include parents of childhood arrivals. According to White House officials, they sought a way to include them in the executive action reforms, but government lawyers examined the issues, and decided against inclusion.
Excluding the parents of dreamers, as well as all agricultural workers, gives a glimpse into the difficulties the government faces in trying to find a balance to bring millions of undocumented immigrants into society, while trying not to give the appearance of providing blanket amnesty. The administration has worried that too broad of a policy could give Congress additional grounds to override the president's executive actions.
While a legal memorandum from the Justice Department determined that the Department Homeland Security (DHS) would not have the authority to extend deferral to DACA parents, some legal experts have argued that there really is no legal justification for excluding the parents of DREAMers based on the current policy changes. A professor at New York University School of Law, Adam Cox, said that there are no legal grounds for distinguishing DREAMer parents from U.S. citizen parents, because parents of both groups could hypothetically be eligible for a visa one day.
The president continues to faces criticism from both sides, even after the sweeping immigration policy reforms. For immigration advocates and childhood arrivals, they still have parents who face the threat of deportation. Cristina Jimenez, of United We Dream, says, “as we celebrate our victory, we remember our moms and dads...who are still undocumented.”
Some parents of DREAMers may be eligible for deferred status if they fall within another deferral category. For example, some of the individuals may have other children who are DREAMers, and other children who are LPRs or U.S. citizens, and can apply for deferral under this criteria. Additionally, with the changes in how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are to handle immigrants, many parents of DREAMers will now fall to the lowest deportation priority. For undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes, and are not determined to be a security threat, they will not be prioritized for detention and removal proceedings under the president's policy changes.