Defending DACA

By Elías Magaña, Health Career Connection Intern

As we wait for President Trump to make a decision on DACA, it is important to acknowledge the impact the current administration has already had and will have on human lives and their healthcare options. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a program that provides undocumented youth administrative relief from deportation. You may receive DACA if you came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday and have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007. Those who receive DACA are allowed a two year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. DACA recipients, whose income qualifies them, may apply for Medicaid benefits.  The Obama administration planned to expand DACA and instate DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) in 2014 but was unable to do so as several states filed lawsuits against the Federal government at that time, halting process. The Trump administration has rescinded the plans to instate DAPA and expand DACA. Throughout his campaign, President Trump promised to completely rescind DACA multiple times on the basis that President Obama’s executive orders were “illegal.” As of today the DACA program is still in place with around 230,000 DACA renewals and acceptances processed already in 2017.  Several states have banded together to force the administration’s hand on the matter. On Thursday June 29th Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, joined by nine counterparts from various states, issued a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding DACA to be rescinded by September 5th. In this letter Paxton stated that DACA must be abolished, or Texas will take the program to court.

 

Although President Trump has yet to cement any changes to the DACA program, his words and actions so far have had negative influence on DACA recipients. His executive order “Enhancing Public Safety of the Interior of the United States” signed on January 25th gives power to local and state police officers to detain undocumented immigrants. It also calls for the Department of Homeland Security to hire 10,000 more immigration officers and to create a public weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. This executive order, along with other executive orders he has issued, works to reinforce to existing xenophobic and racist sentiments commonly used against immigrants, documented or undocumented. Already three known separate occasions of controversial detainments have taken place. In all three cases the detainees were DACA recipients. As of now, numerous organizations suggest consulting an immigration lawyer about applying for DACA due to the fear that Trump will use information provided to DACA offices for deportation purposes. To go further, the President supports a health care act that would cut funding for Medicaid, an essential health care coverage program for many DACA recipients. In addition, the environment of fear regarding using confidential information for deportation purposes further widens the divide between DACA recipients and health care coverage programs that could benefit them and public health, broadly.