Trump Administration Targets Unaccompanied Minors in Negotiations to Replace DACA
The Trump administration is currently engaged in negotiations with Congress regarding a legislative solution to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. However, the strategy being pushed by the White House may have negative consequences for hundreds of thousands of children who immigrated to the U.S. without their parents.
The White House recently released a document to Congress outlining the "principles" that lawmakers should adhere to when creating a legislative fix for DACA. DACA, which was implemented by the Obama administration in 2012, granted work permits and deportation relief to approximately 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. In September, the Trump administration rescinded DACA, giving Congress a six-month deadline to come up with a replacement.
One of the proposals put forth by the Trump administration is a stronger approach towards undocumented immigrants who enter the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, many of whom are fleeing violence in Central America. The White House’s proposal suggests removing protections for these minors, with the exception of those who are victims of human trafficking and can be safely returned home or relocated to secure third countries.
Additionally, the proposal demands funding for President Trump’s proposed border wall and the hiring of thousands of additional immigration officers. According to a White House official, the administration will urge Congress to give DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, "legal status" rather than permanent citizenship.
Democratic leaders who are currently negotiating with Trump to find a replacement for DACA have criticized the proposal. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement expressing their discontent with the administration’s starting point, as they believe it goes against the best interests of the Dreamers, the immigrant community, and the majority of Americans.
When unaccompanied minors are arrested by immigration authorities, they are placed under the care of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, which then releases them to sponsors, most of whom are family members, while they await immigration proceedings.
Trump has blamed the surge in unaccompanied minors on the DACA program, stating that this was a result of the program’s enactment in 2012. The number of children detained at the Southern border reached its peak in 2014, with almost 70,000 children arriving primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Trump argued that this represented a 77 percent increase from the previous year. From October 2016 to August 2017, the Office of Refugee Resettlement released more than 40,400 unaccompanied children to sponsors.
Although these young people would not have met the comprehensive list of DACA eligibility requirements, there is evidence suggesting that smugglers misled the children by telling them they would be allowed to stay in the U.S. under Obama-era policies. However, experts believe that the smugglers’ promise was likely derived from an anti-human-trafficking law signed by George W. Bush in 2008. This law permits children from countries that do not share a border with the U.S. to stay with relatives until their deportation hearings, often for several years.
Federal law guarantees all children access to public education, regardless of their immigration status. However, the recent crackdown on immigrant gangs by the Trump administration has resulted in these young immigrants becoming targets, and efforts to increase immigration enforcement have had broader implications.
Attorneys and civil rights advocates in Long Island, New York, assert that undocumented students are being unjustly charged with gang affiliation and sent to immigration detention facilities without proper due process.
Receive stories similar to these directly in your email inbox. Subscribe to Newsletter for the latest updates.