For now, at least, “Dreamers” will be able to keep on dreaming.
President Trump plans to continue a program that bars the deportation of undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children, a measure he had pledged to end while campaigning for the presidency.
“Maybe this might help relieve a little tension,” said Matthew Archambeault, a Center City immigration attorney. “We’ll see what it really means going forward and what type of blowback he gets from his base.”
That the administration quietly affirmed the program, in a document released late Thursday, doesn’t mean the measure won’t be revoked later on, Archambeault noted.
An official at the Department of Homeland Security told the New York Times on Friday that no final determination had been made about the program.
For the moment, though, people who have lived and worked under the program’s protections can exhale.
Prudence Powell, who came to this country when she was 12, has been nervous since Trump was elected, wondering whether she would be sent back to a Jamaica homeland she no longer knows.
“It’s a scary thought,” said the 34-year-old mother of two, who lives in North Philadelphia. “It would be horrible. I have some family there but I don’t think I would be able to survive. My whole life is based here.”
As Trump promised a hard line toward undocumented immigrants, Powell worried: Would she be deported? Would her children be forced to leave with her, likewise sent to the Caribbean island?
Five years ago, when President Barack Obama announced a change in the nation’s immigration policy, Powell said, she was barely getting by, unable to work and dependent on public assistance and welfare programs.
The DREAM Act, an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was never voted into law. But Obama created a policy that called for delayed action on undocumented children, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
It allows certain people who entered the country as minors to gain a renewable, two-year period of deferred action from deportation along with eligibility for a work permit.
Initially some feared the government would use the personal information on DACA applications to track people and deport them. But thousands came forward.
When Powell was accepted for the program, she said, it changed everything.
“It was a way for me to work, get a driver’s license, and pay taxes,” Powell said. “It might not be much, but it’s a lot from where I came from.”
Today she works as office manager for the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, a Philadelphia-based organization that promotes immigrants’ rights and integration into society.
As a presidential candidate, Trump had promised to immediately end what he called an illegal executive amnesty. As president, however, he’s expressed empathy toward young immigrants, often referred to as Dreamers.
The DACA program has protected an estimated 787,000 people from deportation. It bestows no residency status, but provides a temporary shield from deportation and allows people to legally hold jobs.
The status can be revoked at any time, and some have lost their DACA protection after being arrested for crimes.
“This is the best news we’ve had,” said Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of HIAS Pennsylvania, which works to welcome immigrants and their families. “In other aspects of the administration, they’ve made it clear they don’t want undocumented people at all.”
The DACA program, while not comprehensive, has improved the lives of young people who have been raised as Americans, she said.
“The thought that they would be deported to a country where they’ve never been, and don’t have family, is horrifying,” Miller-Wilson said. “These kids are fabulous, hard-working contributors, and they’re our neighbors and our friends and colleagues, and it was the right move.”
This article contains information from the Associated Press.