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McSally, other Republicans press for congressional fix for DACA

While the Trump administration mulls and stalls over the fate of nearly 800,000 immigrants who were granted deferred protection from deportation and work permits as part of an Obama-era program known as DACA, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and nine other members of Congress submitted a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Friday asking him to find a legislative solution to the problem. 

"We are willing and ready to find a solution no matter what action is taken by President Trump in the coming days and encourage you to work with us as soon as possible to do so," they wrote. 

In the letter, McSally and her Republican colleagues complained about the creation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by President Barack Obama in June 2012, arguing that the executive action "usurped congressional law making authority."

No Democrats joined in signing the letter.

"We did not support the way that President Obama established this program and usurped congressional law making authority. However, these individuals have come forward and provided the federal government with their personal information and biometrics. It would be wrong to go back on our word and subject these individuals to deportation," the letter said.

DACA recipients submit fingerprints and other information to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and pay a fee for a two-year deferral and a work permit. 

Originally introduced in 2001 by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act,  the bill cycled through multiple versions over a decade, but could not get enough votes in the Senate. In 2009, 39 senators and 128 representatives signed on as cosponsors, but again, the bill could not pass, even when a 2010 version was incorporated in a defense authorization act.

Among the 40 senators who voted against the bill in 2010 were Arizona Republicans John McCain and John Kyl.

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In response, Obama announced DACA, an executive action that provided administrative relief from deportation for two years for eligible immigrants who came to the United States before June 15, 2012.

"This is not amnesty," said Obama during a press conference announcing the program. "This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," he said. "This is a temporary stopgap measure."

More than 795,000 people were granted deferred action in the last five years. 

In Arizona alone, nearly 31,000 people were granted DACA status by March 2017, according to statistics from the Migration Policy Institute. 

As many as 48,000 people could be eligible for DACA in the state, MPI estimated. 

"Since its inception, the federal government has approved approximately 795,000 initial DACA applications and 924,000 renewals. DACA recipients have contributed both to the U.S. economy and our society," the letter read. "Since being approved for DACA status, an overwhelming majority of the individuals have enrolled in school or found employment." 

The members of Congress noted that while they were "encouraged by previous statements made by the White House" regarding the fate of DACA recipients, the status of those who applied for DACA "should not be left to the political winds of different administrations that come to power." 

"Congress has a duty to address this problem legislatively" they wrote. 

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

DACA supporters during a protest in January in Tucson.