Commentary

02.14.15

Undocumented: Safe for Now, But for How Long?

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Justice for Immigrants

Last November, President Obama announced a package of executive actions that would provide some protection to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

One of those executive actions expanded Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for children who entered the United States before the age of 16. The president also announced a new program Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) that will give temporary status to parents of those who qualify for DACA, allowing parents to get work permits and social security numbers.

Both parents and children have to meet some requirements, such as no previous felony convictions and going through background checks. The programs give families the knowledge that they are now safe to live in the United States, if only temporarily. It also quells any anxiety children may have over applying to DACA, as they now know that they will not endanger their parents by listing their undocumented status on the signup forms.

Learn more about immigrants’ rights.

In January, however, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It tacked on amendments that will defund the newly formed DAPA and repeal DHS enforcement priorities. Without these priorities, the DHS would be require to treat all 11 million undocumented people in the United States as equal priorities for removal without regard to the individual. In addition, the bill included an amendment that would freeze DACA, causing hundreds of thousands of students, now currently lawfully in the United States, to fear deportation again.

Early in February, the Senate failed to move forward with the legislation. Despite this, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is likely to schedule another vote on the DHS spending bill.

On the local level, Ohio had three bills in relation to DACA that failed to pass the last legislative session. House Bill (HB) 254 would have denied Ohio DACA students the right to receive in-state tuition at Ohio universities. HB 155 would have allowed DACA students to receive driver’s licenses, whereas HB 114 would have prevented these students and other immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. Although none of these bills passed, the ACLU expects that more legislation will be introduced this year affecting the rights of the thousands of immigrants in Ohio.

While DACA and DAPA do not address all the problems riddling our country’s immigration system, they are important first steps to giving all people living in the United States their unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Ashley Taylor was an intern with the ACLU of Ohio in January 2015.

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