ANALYSIS: Trump’s citizenship plan leaves out nearly half of Dreamers

Which “Dreamers” will be given legal recourse to stay in the U.S., and which ones will be left out?

This is the central question surrounding current debate in Washington over a group of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The scramble for a solution has taken on greater urgency since the Trump administration announced that DACA would be phased out and ended in March 2018. That deadline is currently on hold due to a federal court ruling – but a battle in Congress over the Dreamers’ fate closed the federal government for 69 hours earlier this month.

STATE OF THE UNION: We explain three key claims from Trump’s address.

Some conservatives have balked at the idea of giving “amnesty” to any lawbreakers whatsoever. However, in a recent proposal, President Donald Trump has offered to provide a path to legalization for 1.8 million Dreamers who either received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or were DACA-eligible.

What would that mean?

Left out of DACA

DACA is an Obama-era program that provided limited rights to undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as children and met certain requirements. Since its inception in 2012, DACA provided relief to close to 800,000 young undocumented immigrants. Recipients were temporarily shielded from deportation and provided with work authorization.

However, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that more than 3.6 million unauthorized immigrants entered the U.S. before the age of 18. Their data show that slightly more than 1.8 million unauthorized immigrants met the criteria for applying for DACA.

Why, then, did only about 800,000 actually receive it?

DACA only applied to undocumented immigrants who were younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012 and had come to the U.S. before age 16. They had to be in or have graduated from high school, had to have obtained a general education development certificate, or had to have served in the military. This left out some people.

POLITIFACT: Factual hits and misses in Trump’s State of the Union.

Anyone with a criminal record of a felony or more than two misdemeanors or who posed “a threat to national security or public safety” was prohibited from receiving DACA. This left out others.

Additionally, some who were eligible did not apply out of fear that signing up might lead to them or their families being deported. Indeed, after Trump assumed office a number of DACA recipients were arrested and detained.

Trump’s proposal: Generous or not?

President Trump’s latest immigration proposal states that it would “provide legal status for DACA recipients and other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants, adjusting the time-frame to encompass a total population of approximately 1.8 million individuals.” The proposal appears to maintain the same requirements that existed for DACA.

Some supporters of the proposal have viewed the relief for that many undocumented immigrants as generous. However, the proposal would limit relief to about only one-half of Dreamers, ignoring the 1.8 million that never registered for DACA.

The Trump legalization plan would also only cover a minority of the total undocumented immigrant population – about 16 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, the total undocumented population in the United States is more than 11 million.

Ultimately, the Trump proposal would leave roughly 9 million undocumented immigrants subject to deportation.

Millions of undocumented immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for years would not be eligible for legalization and face possible deportation. People with families – including U.S. citizen children – friends, jobs and communities in the United States will be affected.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: Viewpoints delivers the latest perspectives on current events.

The fear of removal is real and has had major health and other consequences on immigrant communities and families.

All of this is only part of what Trump’s proposal is seeking to do. The proposal calls for great increases in immigration enforcement, including the appropriation of billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also calls for increased detention and immigration enforcement and the expansion of expedited removal of noncitizens apprehended in the interior of the country. Moreover, the Trump proposal seeks drastic reductions of family-based immigration and an end to “extended-family chain migration” as well as elimination of the diversity visa program.

Organizations ranging from the American Immigration Lawyers Association to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund believe that Trump’s legalization program for a portion of the undocumented community is not worth the formidable costs.

Johnson is dean and a professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies at the University of California-Davis.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Herman: Will ‘The Head’ need a new home?
Herman: Will ‘The Head’ need a new home?

Since shortly after the turn of the century, he’s ceaselessly cast his gaze eastward, optimistically looking toward the sunrise that, for many, heralds the arrival of another day in Austin. Granted, watching the sun rise over an Auto Zone on Burnet Road is not to be equated with watching the sun set over Lake Travis at The Oasis. But there he...
Opinion: Who’s worse: Trump or his lawyers?

Gee, we’ve been hearing a ton about the turmoil in the president’s legal team. You probably have questions. Is this something else I have to think about in the middle of the night when I’m staring at the ceiling? Because really, I’ve got enough. We’re talking about chaos and turnover among the people defending Donald Trump...
Opinion: Liberals don’t hate America, and conservatives aren’t racists

WASHINGTON — I’m a rock-ribbed conservative who wants Republicans to keep control of Congress. But I’m not unhappy that Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone appears to have lost the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Why? Because he insulted my mother. Trailing his Democratic opponent in a district...
Commentary: From Iraq to Austin, motives behind violence are elusive
Commentary: From Iraq to Austin, motives behind violence are elusive

Earlier this week, as Austin nursed its collective SXSW intellectual and artistic hangovers, the freshness and transparency that are hallmarks of the yearly festival slowly yielded the headlines to the developing storyline of a serial bomber who was terrorizing our city. As law enforcement publicly pieced together their case and a small army of federal...
Letters to the editor: March 23, 2018
Letters to the editor: March 23, 2018

If our City Council chooses to look elsewhere for a permanent chief of police, they are existing further from reality than I imagined. This man has been dealing with situations that are very far from what is normal — and he has handled it with authority and grace. Our police department needs him because he is familiar with the problems here in...
More Stories