The daily swirl and surge of federal political events is mind-boggling: Impeachment hearings, criminal investigations, military withdrawals, and a new Supreme Court session. One development after another hardly allows us to focus. But I urgently ask the eyes of Congress and all Americans to return their attention to DACA.
Do not let the fate of thousands of undocumented youth whose lives are in the balance get lost. The Dreamers and fate of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) remains a live issue.
On Nov. 12 the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on DHS v. Regents of the University of California. The Dreamers and the Dream Act was long a political football, tossed back and forth for political gain, until President Obama put DACA protections into effect by executive order. President Trump soon followed with an order to put an end to those protections.
Lawsuits and appeals followed. Thankfully a court-ordered injunction prevented cancelling DACA and thrusting the fate of thousands of youth into perilous waters. The lives of Dreamers across the country were returned to temporary respite. Dreamers, not knowing the ultimate outcome, nervously returned to living in the shadows, daily lives filled with fear.
Now with the Supreme Court hearing the issue, there is no way to predict the final outcome.
The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, (NQAPIA) has submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in DHS v. Regents of the University of California. The brief highlights the unique concerns of LGBTQ Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander (API) DACA recipients. More than thirty organizations from across the country signed on to the brief prepared with the pro bono legal assistance of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC.
But it is time for all of us to remember the Dreamers. It is time to recognize that they are not a faceless mass of immigrants, they are real people, with real lives, families, jobs and school to attend to. They live and love just as all people do.
When the Supreme Court makes its decision, the right thing to do will be to protect these innocent young people and allow them a path to citizenship. But whatever the court decides it is the responsibility of the Congress to finally act and extend permanent and enduring legal protections to these young people most of whom have never known any place but the US to be their home.
Ending DACA would put the lives of 800,000 undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children at risk of deportation. In my own community alone, 169,000 Asian Pacific Islanders are eligible for DACA. There are an estimated 267,000 undocumented immigrants who are LGBT. If the courts (or the Congress) allow the Trump administration to end the DACA program, many LGBT API youth could be deported to countries that criminalize homosexuality—some which even impose a death penalty.
We all deserve to live, work, and study in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Regardless of the Supreme Court decision, Congress must no longer hold the Dreamers hostage to politics. It is time to pass the Dream Act and codify an unencumbered DACA into law.
NQAPIA is a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander organizations. Give today to continue building an LGBTQ API Movement.
Glenn Magpantay is a lawyer and executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.