DACA: Facts v. Fiction, Deportation v. Amnesty & A Path to U.S. Citizenship


We here at The Conservative Urbanite have been saying for months that the narrative the Left wants Americans to believe regarding the numbers and narrative surrounding President Obama’s unconstitutional executive order that unilaterally affected U.S. immigration law, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, is not only inaccurate but untrue.

It’s clear that the Obama Administration attempted to bypass Congress authority to create “a uniform Rule of Naturalization”, under Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 4 of the Constitution, by implementing DACA. The cited section holds that the federal government, specifically Congress, is responsible for crafting the laws that determine how and when noncitizens can become nat­uralized citizens of the United States. What Obama did change the immigration law but finding a loophole that fell short of making DACA recipients American citizens, as he stated in his June 15, 2012, policy announcement speech, "This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix...” but rather what he did was place a “temporary stopgap measure” on deporting illegal immigrants allowing them to remain in this country illegally under his executive order.

President Obama again attempted to skirt Congress authority when the expansion of the DACA policy with the failed Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). DAPA would have granted deferred action status to certain illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and had children who are either American citizens (also known as anchor babies) or lawful permanent residents (parents of DACA recipients). Deferred action is not full legal status but would have come with a three-year, renewable work permit and exemption from deportation. DAPA would have allowed any immigrant parents to enter this country illegally, have a child and be protected from deportation. Thankfully, the DAPA policy was never implemented as the courts saw it for what it was, a attempt to craft U.S. immigration law, and enjoined it

DACA advocates would like the John Q. Public to believe several false narratives which include:

  • DACA was put in to place to protect KIDS who were brought here through no fought of their own

  • that majority of DACA recipients are law-abiding, high school/college students & members of the U.S. Armed Forces

  • that DACA recipients are net tax contributors to the U.S. economy

  • that if deported to their native countries, DACA recipients wouldn’t know how to speak the language and are ignorant of their countries’ cultural norms

  • If deported, DACA recipients would be condemned to a life of isolation and/or poverty.

However, in all actuality, these narratives couldn’t be further from this truth. We’ve researched each of the above to dwindle down the fluff and get to the facts.

FALSE NARRATIVE: The DACA “kids” were brought the U.S. as infants/toddlers cradled in the mother’s arms, through “no fault of their own”.

FACT: It is often stated that the approximately 800,000 initial DACA recipients were “kids” and were brought to this country by their parents; this is simply NOT the case. The majority of DACA recipients, now an average age of 24 and even as old as 35 (according to a September 2017 report from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) entered the U.S. illegally as late teenagers (more than 1/3 of applicants were between the ages of 15-18) both accompanied and unaccompanied by their parents. Many were smuggled in by paid professional smugglers and came in through their own fruition, knowingly breaking the law.

FALSE NARRATIVE: DACA recipients are law-abiding, in high school/college and members of the U.S. Armed Forces

FACT: Documenting students who have received approval for DACA isn’t easy. The reason is that schools, both high schools and colleges, generally don’t ask students if they have DACA status. So the data isn’t collected. However, in a letter to Congress dated September 6, 2017, a group of 64 DACA advocacy organizations from across the U.S. estimated that 1/5 of the 800,000 DACA recipients (or 160,000 if you do the math) are currently enrolled in college. Only four percent of ‘DACA’ recipients have completed college, far below the roughly 17 percent of similar-aged young Americans who have college degrees, according to November 2017 data released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a DACA advocate.

DACA also has no requirement for recipients to stay school to keep receiving benefits only that they are “currently enrolled” in a elementary, junior high, or high school, English as a second language (ESL) program, educational program – preparation for diploma or GED or education, literacy, vocational, or career training program at the time of application submission, thus only 20% of current DACA recipients are enrolled in secondary school according to the MPI report.

Fewer than 900 DACA recipients (or slightly more than 1/10 of 1% of the total DACA population) joined the military.

In a September 2017, according to a USCIS report, DACA terminations due to crime reached an all-time high souring to 30% over previous years. From its inception until September 2017, over 2,000 individuals approved for DACA previously had their status terminated for criminal activity due to one or more of the following: a felony criminal conviction; a significant misdemeanor conviction; multiple misdemeanor convictions; gang affiliation; or arrest of any crime in which is deemed to be a public safety concern. Most DACA terminations were based on the following infractions (not ranked): alien smuggling, assaultive offenses, domestic violence, drug offenses, DUI, larceny and thefts, criminal trespass and burglary, sexual offenses with minors, other sex offenses and weapons offenses. More recently, in November 2017, DOJ cited that many of the 214 illegal immigrants MS-13 Gang Members arrested during its Operation Raging Bull from October 8 – November 11, 2017, were on the DACA rolls.Perhaps, what is most disturbing about data released by USCIS, is the number of DACA applicants who come from countries associated with terrorism or overt anti-Americanism. This is cause for concern given the “lean and lite” vetting used to quickly approve DACA applications:

  • More than 1,000 DACA applications were accepted from Pakistani nationals despite concerns over growing anti-U.S. sentiment within the country and the Pakistani government’s overt support of jihadist terror groups.

  • At least 60 applicants were accepted from Iran, a nation overtly hostile to the U.S.

  • More than 2,000 from Venezuela, a nation overtly hostile to the U.S.

  • Applications were also accepted from Libyans, Syrians and Yemenis even though the Obama administration placed travel restrictions on nationals from those countries, due to terrorism concerns.

FALSE NARRATIVE: DACA recipients are net tax contributors (the taxes they pay exceed the government benefits and services they receive) and they deporting them would cause a huge strain on the American economy.

FACT: Compared with the general population, DACA recipients are not especially highly skilled. According to a report from Center for American Progress, DACA recipients made a median hourly wage of $17.29, (2.4 times the national minimal wage), meaning that they are competing directly with hard-pressed lower-skilled Americans.

An analysis by The Heritage Foundation on unlawful immigration and its fiscal effect on the U.S. economy found that on average, unlawful immigrant households receive $24,721 per household in government benefits and services annually. This figure includes direct benefits (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation), means-tested benefits (cash, food, housing, medical, and other services), education (at a cost of $12,300 per pupil per year; these services are largely free or heavily subsidized), and population-based services (police, fire, highways, parks, and similar services) received by the household but excludes the cost of public goods, interest on the government debt, and other payments for prior government functions. By contrast, these households on average paid only $10,334 in taxes. Thus, unlawful immigrant households received $2.40 in benefits and services for each dollar paid in taxes, therefore being net tax consumers: The benefits they receive exceed the taxes they pay. These households generate a “fiscal deficit” to the U.S. economy.

FALSE NARRATIVE: Because DACA recipients were merely “kids” when they came to the U.S., if deported to their native countries where they were born, it would cause undue hardship because they don’t know how to speak the language, are ignorant of their countries’ cultural norms and would be condemned to a life of isolation and/or poverty.

FACT: The DACA application process has no English proficiency requirement, and speaking of the English language is not a requirement for approval. The application simply asked if the applicant could read & understand English or whether the applicant completed the application via a translator.

According to one estimate by a pro-immigration organization, only 10 percent of DACA-eligible individuals spoke no English or only “a little,” while that number rose to 17 percent under the would be expanded DACA program, DAPA. Only sixteen percent claimed they spoke English “well” and 75 percent claimed they spoke English “well or only English,” although 93 percent lived in a household in which a language other than English was “sometimes or always spoken.”

Data released by USCIS also proves that this narrative is false. According to USCIS, of the 149 native countries of origin for DACA applicants, English is the national language in at least 26 of those countries. Those include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. A large number of applicants are from India, Hong Kong and the Philippines, where there are enormous English-speaking communities.

Other statistics also undermine claims that the United States must “take care of the DACAs” or condemn them to a life of isolation and poverty.

At least 36 of the nations of origin listed by USCIS are wealthy, democratic and European. They include Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.

Applicants also originate from at least nine Asian countries with fully developed or rapidly developing economies. Those include South Korea, Japan and Singapore.

A total of 360 nationals from Israel applied for DACA benefits. Israel is a developed nation with a thriving economy that accepts all returned citizens and provides free instruction in Hebrew to returnees and immigrants.

In fact, it is well noted that many DACA precipitants birth countries are listed on the higher end of the common standard of living indexes. The doom and gloom narrative again, simply doesn’t apply. What DACA advocates want is for the United States to be morally and financially obligated to these illegal immigrants while overlooking our own laws in order to avoid returning them back to their countries whose citizens are considered to have a higher standard of living than many Americans.

NO DEPORTATION BUT NO AMNESTY

Now that we’ve have pointed out the facts vs. false narratives, one might assume that we are advocating for the mass deportation of these illegal immigrants; that assumption would be 100% incorrect.

While in NO WAY a supporter of any kind of amnesty program, these people should be afforded a CORRECT path to citizenship. Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself, we should all be able to agree that a path to citizenship IS NOT amnesty. Any path to citizenship should require DACA recipients to go through a vetting & review process to become United States citizens as simply awarding amnesty would only reward these illegal immigrants for breaking the law in the first place.

Perhaps the blaring argument against amnesty and its effect on immigration can be found with the 1986 passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), also known as the Simpson–Mazzoli Act or the Reagan Amnesty. According to December 2012 Congressional Research Services report on Unauthorized Aliens Residing in the United States: Estimates Since 1986, which included data sourced from U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) & the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS), states that “the unauthorized resident alien population (commonly referred to as illegal aliens) rose from 3.2 million in 1986 to 12.4 million in 2007, before leveling off at 11.1 million in 2011.” While the number of illegal immigrants fell from 3.2 to 1.9 million from 1986 – 1988, because of the new legal classification due to IRCA, from 1990 to 2007 illegal immigration rose at an astounding 147% under IRCA.

Like many Americans, I am uninterested in having the current 650K DACA recipients deported. What I am interested in is moving them off the rolls of illegal criminals to American Citizens. So how do we do that?

A TRUE PATH TO CITIZENSHIP - A Variation of the DREAM Act of 2017

To move forward with effective immigration reform, we must understand our past.

For over 30 years, since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the U.S. has made no real progress on meaningful comprehensive immigration reform, opting more for a band-aid on a bullet wound approach, while kicking the ball down the road. America's inability to enforce our current immigration laws, affect essential border security and hold accountable those who cross our borders illegally as well as the employers who hire them cannot continue.

In 1996 the Clinton Administration’s immigration reform attempt was most aimed at reducing illegal immigration while attempts from barring undocumented immigrants from public schools and limiting legal immigrants' access to health and welfare services, were watered down or rolled back due to partisan and intraparty disputes over how far to go. Movement on reform halted with Senator Harry Reid’s (D-Nevada) legislation that would deprive the children of undocumented immigrants of citizenship. American ended up with a spending bill that included increased border security and made it harder to get asylum in the U.S.

In 2000 the Clinton Administration attempt immigration reform again with a push for amnesty for hundreds of thousands of immigrants left in legal limbo by a technical snafu involving the 1986 IRCA law while also offering a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Central Americans. Republicans blocked that effort and opted to pass their own legislation addressing the shortcoming of IRCA and the family members of legal residents which became the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, allowing certain foreign-born, biological and adopted children of American citizens to acquire American citizenship automatically. Clinton threatened another showdown, but given that the Democrats lost the 2000 election he backed off and signed the bill

From 2004-2007 the Bush Administration attempted its version of immigration reform that he hoped would appeal to both business owners and Hispanic voters with the push of a Guest Worker Program as well build hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, require that businesses verify the legality of all employees' status through a national database, fortify border patrols, and declare illegal immigrants and those who help them to be felons. This attempt failed due numerous issues. The felony offense was a non starter due to protest sparking out across the nation. Attempts to downgrade the offense to a misdemeanor were also thwarted with only 8 democrats and all others plus 65 Republicans voting for the lower offense bill. No support from business leaders who were concerned that conservatives would pressure Bush into signing a law that actually made it harder to hire from overseas. Election year politics caused a halt in any reform legislation.

In 2007 the Bush Administration attempted reform again crafting a compromise that allowed a path to legal status for current immigrants and a new temporary worker program, contingent on stricter border security and employer crackdowns. However, the advent of the Tea Party, opposition from AFL-CIO, conservative Republicans and several pro-labor Democrats the legislation died in the Senate.

In 2010, the Obama Administration pushed for comprehensive immigration reform but after a bruising fight over health care and a tough midterm election, the push unsurprisingly went nowhere.

In 2012, the Obama Administration signed the current DACA executive order not only protecting many illegal immigrants from deportation but also offering a plethora of government benefits & services.

Since 2001 several variations of immigration reform and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bi-partisan piece of American immigration legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for qualifying illegal alien minors in the United States and would first grant conditional residency and upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency, has been reintroduced numerous times but failed to pass. It seems that immigration reform continues to suffered from the same few problems again and again. Business interests and labor interests have to find a way to reconcile their disagreements.

While it seems that any talk of amnesty is a non starter for Republicans, a small compromise with the immigration law enforcement & border security first approach may move reform talks in the right direction. On the other hand, Democrats need to compromise on their all or nothing path to citizen approach.

Even though the DREAM ACT of 2017 doesn’t address border security or immigration law enforcement, the bi-partisan bill introduced on July 20, 2017, by senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is a great place to start. The bi-partisan bill would provide a direct road to U.S. citizenship for people who are either undocumented, have DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program.

The Dream Act of 2017 would make the following changes to current law:

  • Grant current DACA beneficiaries permanent resident status on a conditional basis, and allow TPS beneficiaries, people with illegal immigration status, and people with final orders of removal the opportunity to apply for this same immigration status.

  • Permit conditional permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (sometimes referred to as getting a “green card”) if they go to college, have worked for a certain amount of time, or served in the U.S. military. They also would have to meet other requirements.

  • Provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship. A person would have to be in conditional permanent resident (CPR) status for 8 years before they could become eligible to apply for LPR status, and after a certain period as an LPR (probably five years), they could apply for U.S. citizenship.

  • Stay (stop) the removal proceedings of anyone who meets the Dream Act requirements and young people over 5 years of age who are enrolled in elementary or secondary school.

  • Improve college affordability for undocumented youth and other immigrants by changing rules that limit their access to in-state tuition and college loans through the repeal section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), which currently discourages states from making undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition or providing them other higher education benefits.

The Dream Act of 2017 would grant recipients an initial conditional permanent resident status. To be eligible, applicants would have to:

  1. be undocumented, a DACA recipient, or a TPS beneficiary (people with final removal orders, voluntary departure orders, or who are in removal proceedings would be eligible);

  2. have entered the U.S. before the age of 18;

  3. have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since at least four years before the date of the Dream Act’s enactment;

  4. have maintained continuous presence in the U.S. until the date they apply;

  5. meet the education requirement through one of these ways:

a. they’ve been admitted to a college, university, or other institution of higher learning, or

b. they’ve earned a high school diploma or general education development (GED) certificate, or

c. they are currently enrolled in a secondary education program to assist in obtaining a high school diploma or GED certificate;

6. have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses;

7. pass a medical exam; and

8. pass a background check.

Applicants first would need to apply for CPR status, either through the regular process as a first-time applicant or through a potentially streamlined process for DACA recipients.

Under the 2017 Dream Act, people who’ve had CPR status for 8 years would be eligible to apply for LPR (green card) status. They would then likely have to be in LPR status for 5 years before they would be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. A person cannot apply for citizenship without first adjusting to LPR status.

CPR (8 years) ⇒ LPR (5 years) ⇒ CITIZENSHIP (total of at least 13 years until eligible for citizenship)

To remove the conditional basis of their resident status and become a full-fledged LPR, the applicant would have to meet these requirements:

  1. Not have certain criminal convictions on their record.

  2. Not have abandoned their residence in the U.S.

  3. Have done one of the following:

a. acquired a degree from an institution of higher education, or

b. completed at least 2 years in a bachelor’s degree program, or

c. served for at least 2 years in the uniformed services, or

d. been employed for periods totaling at least 3 years, at least 75 percent of which time was working with valid employment authorization. (If the person was not working, they must show that they were enrolled in school or an education program.)

e. a hardship exception may be available for people who do not meet at least one of the four requirements listed immediately above.

4. Demonstrate the ability to read, write and speak English and show a knowledge and understanding of U.S. civics.

5. Pass a background check.

Because of the Obama Administration's 2012 DACA Executive Order failure to address putting the program's illegal immigrants on the path toward U.S. citizenship, there is a dire need to address this issue without kicking the can down the road. DACA recipients should be afforded an opportunity to become U.S. citizens.

If congress is really interested in passing real Immigration Reform, a great place to start would be the bi-partisan DREAM ACT of 2017 bill. While the process could be shorter and needs to include boarder control and immigration law enforcement measures, it offers a complete, thought out path to citizenship.

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