There are more than 610,000 immigrants in New Jersey and around the county who entered the United States when they were children and are protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was put into place by executive action during the Obama administration. The fate of these Dreamers has been a subject of fierce political debate since President Obama drafted his executive order in June 2012, and experts do not expect to see a breakthrough in the near future. The current rules require Dreamers to renew their DACA status every two years, but they do not provide them with a path to citizenship.
Lack of political will
The plight of Dreamers no longer seems to be a priority for the nation’s political leaders. In his February State of the Union address, President Joe Biden devoted only a single sentence to immigration, but that sentence did include a call to provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship. There are also few calls to introduce a revised form of DACA to help immigrants who entered the country as children and are not currently protected by the program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped accepting DACA applications in 2021 after a federal court in Texas ruled that the program was unconstitutional because President Obama acted without Congressional approval.
The DREAM Act
President Obama introduced the DACA program because Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The legislation was first introduced in 2001, but it failed to gain traction then or when it was reintroduced in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. A revised version of the DREAM Act was introduced with bipartisan support in 2017, but the hopes of Dreamers were dashed yet again when it failed to pass.
Lawmakers are often hesitant to take up issues that are not considered pressing priorities. Dreamers currently have no path to citizenship, but they also do not have to live with the constant fear of deportation. Members of Congress seem reluctant to spend any more political capital on a fight that has been raging for more than two decades, which suggests that at least some of them are satisfied with this state of affairs.