By Michael Tan
This fall, the Trump administration announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers young undocumented people who came to this country as children temporary permission to work and live here. The decision threw the lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants into crisis. The president has repeatedly insisted that there’s “nothing to worry about” and that Dreamers can rest easy while Congress works on a legislative fix.
But that’s proven to be false.
By Christmas, about 13,500 young people will have lost their DACA status since the administration began letting DACA permits expire on Sept. 5. On average, another 122 young people are now losing DACA every day. If Congress doesn’t come up with a solution immediately, a thousand more will start losing their status each day starting in March.
We’re also seeing the Trump administration target Dreamers who haven’t broken the program’s rules by revoking their DACA status even before their permits expire. Dreamers have lost their jobs, their driver’s licenses, and their ability to support themselves and their loved ones. They’ve been locked up in immigration jails and threatened with deportation.
Yesterday, the ACLU was back to court in a nationwide class action to make sure Dreamers benefit from every remaining day of their DACA status, as the government promised. We represent Dreamers like José Gil, a 24-year-old man from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, who’s lived in the United States since he was five years old. José is an active member of his church, an altar server in high school, and a volunteer in helping to rebuild a church in New York destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
The federal government granted him DACA status twice, in 2015 and 2017. That allowed him to work as a bakery manager and for a logistics company, and he used his earnings to help support his five younger U.S. citizen siblings and to start saving for college. José was also able to get a driver’s license, which allowed him to drive to work and church, and to give his siblings rides to school.
In September, José was arrested by local police and later charged with a misdemeanor for driving on a cancelled license because he allegedly did not complete the required “status check” for his driver’s license after his DACA was renewed this year. José was released from police custody the next day and returned to his job and family. But a month later, ICE showed up at his work, put him in an immigration jail, and filed a deportation case against him.
This resulted in the termination of his DACA — even though his charge for driving on an expired license does not disqualify him from the program. José was locked up for month in an immigration jail before a judge granted him release on bond. But José still doesn’t have his DACA back.
The ACLU is aware of at least 16 other Dreamers like José who have been stripped of their DACA status even though they continue to satisfy the program’s rules. In November, the federal court restored the DACA of another plaintiff in our case, Jesús Arreola, who was also terminated from the program even though he continued to meet its rules. We’re now asking the federal court to extend its ruling nationwide and prohibit the Trump administration from rescinding DACA for anyone who still qualifies for the program, without any notice, explanation, or an opportunity to respond. Everyone entitled to DACA should be allowed to keep it for whatever time they have left on their DACA grant.
But at the end of the day, the DACA program is ending, and it was never good enough for Dreamers like José and Jesús. The hundreds of thousands of young people like them deserve a path to resolve their legal status once and for all. That’s why Congress must pass the bipartisan Dream Act immediately. Only Congress can make sure that hardworking people like José and Jesús — who are American in every way but on paper — become full members of the country they know and love as their home.
Michael Tan is Staff Attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project