The Columns

W&L Law’s David Baluarte on Next Steps for DACA and the Dreamers Prof. David Baluarte, along with W&L law students, is working to help DACA beneficiaries and their families understand the immediate impact of the potential end of the program.

— by on September 8th, 2017

Prof. David Baluarte, director of the W&L Immigrant Rights ClinicProf. David Baluarte, director of the W&L Immigrant Rights Clinic

Washington and Lee law professor David Baluarte, director of the school’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, will travel to Harrisonburg next week to meet with DACA beneficiaries to help them strategize in anticipation of the end of the program that will affect an estimated 800,000 people nationwide.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week the administration’s intention to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which allows certain undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children to receive a discretionary waiver of deportation and a work permit. President Trump has given Congress six months to act before the program terminates.

Baluarte, along with W&L students, is working with a partner organization, the New Bridges Immigrant Resource Center, to help DACA beneficiaries and their families understand the immediate impact of the administration’s decision. The information session will occur at Skyline Middle School in Harrisonburg on Friday, Sept. 15 at 6:00 pm.

Baluarte said the goal of the session is to make sure DACA beneficiaries, popularly known as Dreamers, and their families, understand the current situation and the way forward.

“We know that the work authorization for roughly 200,000 Dreamers will expire before March 5, 2018, the administration’s six-month deadline,” says Baluarte. “These people have until Oct. 5 to renew their DACA and receive an additional two-year work authorization.”

Baluarte is hopeful that for this community of Dreamers, the two-year window will give Congress enough time to implement a legislative solution that resolves their immigration status. Of greater concern is the 600,000 additional Dreamers who will begin to lose their deferred action status and work authorization after March 5 at an estimated rate of 1000 people per month.

“We really don’t know what’s going to happen for these people, but in the event that Congress fails to remedy their situation, they need to seek legal advice as soon as possible to see if they have some other path to legal immigration status.”

President Obama created DACA through executive order after legislation known as the Dream Act failed in Congress. Baluarte explained that President Obama used a combination of statutory and regulatory power that gives the executive branch the authority to defer at its discretion the enforcement of immigration laws against certain undocumented individuals and to issue them work permits. While Obama’s DACA order has been criticized as unconstitutional and an example of executive overreach, it has up until now survived all legal challenges in court.

Baluarte says that there is long-standing agreement across the political spectrum for the need to resolve the situation of undocumented minors, and personally, he does not find any of the reasons for ending DACA laid out by Attorney General Sessions convincing. However, he notes that there are already proposals in the U.S. House and Senate with support from both parties that will protect the Dreamers.

“If you look at the population of Dreamers, you find people who are motivated and hard-working, living the American Dream. We should view them as embodying the best of the spirit of our society, people who are taking us where we need to go, as opposed to the ethno-nationalist concept motivating the administration’s DACA decision. To me this seems totally un-American and does not reflect what our country is all about historically.”