President Obama last week outlined his long-awaited plan for executive action on immigration reform, which includes an expansion of his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, launched in 2012.
Over the past two years, DACA has deferred the deportations of nearly 600,000 younger illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, the so-called DREAM students. ACE has long supported congressional efforts to pass the DREAM Act, which have been unsuccessful over a decade of attempts.
Under the current terms of DACA, individuals are eligible for deferred action on deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16, are younger than 31, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, and graduated from a U.S. high school, earned a GED, or served in the military. They must have entered the United States as children before June 15, 2007.
Based on the initial information released by the White House, the president’s action would extend that date to January 2010 and eliminate the requirement that applicants be under 31. It also would increase the deferral period from the current two years to three years. About 1.2 million young immigrants are currently eligible, and the new plan would expand eligibility to approximately 300,000 more.
As The Chronicle of Higher Education writes, beneficiaries of the expanded DACA program will be eligible to apply for in-state tuition and state scholarships in many more states, but not for federal student aid.
The president also is proposing a number of steps to expand visas for high-tech workers, some of which will impact colleges and universities and their foreign students. Read more about those plans in the White House’s fact sheet.
Reaction against the president’s plan has been building for several weeks, with Republicans charging that the action exceeds presidential executive authority. Many GOP leaders maintain Congress can still pass immigration reform legislation that would make the president’s executive action unnecessary. The Senate approved a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, but efforts in the House have been unsuccessful.