Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, widely known as “DACA,” is an American immigration policy implemented by President Barack Obama. The program allows some individuals who were brought to the U.S. as young children to become eligible for a sort of administrative relief from deportation. DACA recipients can also become eligible for a U.S. work permit.

Over the course of the Trump Administration, DACA has fallen under attack numerous times. The President has moved to repeal it entirely a few times, inciting a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. DACA has been helpful for many Dreamers, but never created a pathway to a permanent resident or citizenship for these individuals. Instead, one could lose their protections under DACA if there were any criminal charges and or even the allegation that the DACA recipient is a gang member.  Although great, DACA has always fallen short to help the lives of thousands of young individuals who were brought to the U.S. without their permission and only know the U.S. as their home.

Recently, just as DACA celebrated its seventh anniversary, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would grant legal status, as well as a pathway to citizenship, to approximately 2.5 million immigrants.  The Dream and Promise Act, a more comprehensive and widespread law than the original Obama-era DREAM Act, repeatedly failed when Congress maintained a Republican majority. However, now that the political makeup of Congress has flipped, the bill passed 237-187, with seven Republicans even crossing the aisle to join Democrats in the vote.

Preet Gill

“We cannot turn our backs on DACA recipients,” says Partner Preet Gill, head of SBAGK’s immigration department. “These kids stood up in school every morning and pledged their allegiance to the United States. They work hard and have a bright future that will one day uplift the United States and make us proud.”

The Dream and Promise Act seeks to implement reforms for DACA recipients, as well as immigrants with temporary protected status. For DACA recipients, the process would begin with applying for conditional permanent residency, with a few requirements. They would have had to enter the U.S. before the age of 18, lived in the States for at least four years, have no felony record or a combination of three misdemeanors that resulted in more than 90 days of jail time, and have a high school diploma or GED. DACA recipients would also be afforded a pathway to citizenship by eventually applying for a green card or with other methods, such as military service.

For DACA recipients, this sounds like great news. However, it’s important to remain vigilant. The bill might have passed in the House, but it is unlikely to survive the Republican-majority Senate. It seems that House Democrats are no longer using DACA reforms as a bargaining tool for other legislation and proposing standalone legislation instead. Unfortunately for immigrants, these programs will likely never land on the President’s desk. However, if Democrats manage to take back the White House and keep their majority in the House, it could indicate what future legislation will look like.