President Obama promised relief to some immigrants when announcing the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is also the Deporter-in-Chief, and this is coming back to bite him on DACA. The Wall Street Journal*reports*that only 40,000 applications were submitted in the first three weeks of the program. We suspect that the President's campaign had hoped for 10 times as many. The principal reasons for the shortfall according to the WSJ article are (1) disclosures required and (2) who will be President in Jan 2013.
As to the disclosures of information required, Mr. Obama, and the Federal government, have lost the trust of the immigrant community by deporting a record hundreds of thousands of undocumented aliens, half of whom had no criminal background whatsoever. Unless ICE is reined in, and deportations suspended, at least for non-criminal aliens, community trust will not be easily regained. Voting with their (withdrawn) feet, DREAMers across the country are showing that they don't buy USCIS's assurance that information given to USCIS will not be used for removal purposes. If USCIS wishes to encourage more DACA applicants to step forward, they should create an information firewall between benefits and enforcement. A first step would be to transfer FDNS to ICE.
As to who will be President in January 2013, we believe DREAMers should not worry. Firstly, those who have already received EADs will likely be able to continue renewing these indefinitely, based on how previous administrations have handled large numbers of TPS applications, and others eligible, including those granted Deferred Action before the DACA announcement. The administrative process for EADs is to continue the authorization absent revocation of the underlying reason for qualifying. Secondly, for those granted Deferred Action, but awaiting EADs when a President Romney takes over, we believe USCIS will issue EADs under the same rationale as above. As to those awaiting adjudication for their DACA applications, we believe that USCIS will continue processing and approving these, at least until the nomination and Senate confirmation of a new USCIS Director, which would be several months after January 2013. As to the future of the DACA program under a Romney administration, the Wall Street Journal quotes Mr. Romney as saying: "Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure." To this we say: Great! If Mr. Romney intends to ask Congress to enact some form of the DREAM Act, we would support this, as we would any immigration benefits bill. If that proves politically not possible, the most likely scenario is that Mr. Romney will let the DACA process continue. And this is for a simple reason - an incoming Romney administration will likely save its political capital for fights over the budget and health care, with nothing left to spare for almost every other issue, including immigration.
Regardless of who wins the mandate in November, we believe that November and December will likely be the heaviest months for DACA applications, especially if USCIS is churning out EADs by the end of October. The positive impact of these tens of thousands of EADs is what's needed to get the community to get the message. Immigration Daily will continue to keep you on top of DACA matters, stay tuned.