The DACA Deadline Delusion

The deadline has already passed.


Dreamers’ days are literally numbered.

They always were, in some sense, in that DACA provided only limited protection from deportation and work authorization; nevertheless, before October 5, 2017 — the day DACA renewals officially came to an end — there at least was a reset button on the clock, no matter how arduous.

That day, tens of thousands of eligible Dreamers effectively lost access to the program, as they were unable to renew by the accelerated deadline set by the rescission announcement only 30 days prior.

Now, almost two months after the abrupt renewal deadline, hundreds of DACA recipients are phasing out of the program each week.

And yet congressional leaders continue to point to March 5, 2018 — the date on which over 100,000 recipients’ DACA expires — as the date by which they need to act to protect Dreamers.

Setting aside the more than 15,000 people who will have lost their ability to work and their protection from deportation between now and then, no one knows exactly what form the codification of DACA protections will take. Unless Dreamers whose DACA is either current or recently-expired are somehow grandfathered in to updated requirements, it could take several months from the passage of any legislation for the United States to define a process, for Dreamers to prepare their applications and apply, and for USCIS to process applications.

National Immigration Forum estimates that the time between legislation and Dreamers being protected under new requirements and processes could take up to 7 months, resulting in over 200,000 Dreamers being phased out of protection and work authorization during that time.

In the meantime, we have hundreds of thousands of young immigrants living in fear and uncertainty every single day until congress takes action.

To put this into perspective for those of us who are either citizens already or have some more permanent residence in the United States, let’s look at a grossly oversimplified analogy.

Imagine you’re sitting in an Urgent Care waiting room. You’re sick or injured; you’re uncomfortable at best and worried about your diagnosis.
Your future is uncertain.
Now imagine that someone walks into the waiting room and announces to the crowd of already-anxious people, completely without warning, that you will not be helped until the United States congress manages to fix the healthcare system.
In fact, if congress can’t manage to fix the healthcare system in a certain amount of time, you might be forced to leave without treatment.
And if you leave the waiting room, you won’t be readmitted.
You’re trapped. You’re stressed. And you’re scared.

This kind of uncertainty is the daily reality hundreds of thousands of Dreamers across the nation.

Indeed, previously reported upon mental health benefits of DACA are being completely undone and, some say, made worse.

The unfortunate reality is that the March 5, 2018 deadline is no deadline at all. The day DACA was rescinded — September 5, 2017 — is the day we started seeing sweeping, negative impacts to Dreamers who live, work, and contribute to American society alongside its citizens.

We need to remove the “March 5, 2018 deadline” from the nation’s vocabulary.

The deadline to protect Dreamers has already come and gone.

The time to act is now.