Where does DACA come from?
During the first term of his presidency in 2008–12, President Barack Obama pushed for immigration reform to address the problems faced by children brought illegally to the United States by their parents.
These children—some 700,000 young people at an average age of 25—were caught in real limbo, not having chosen the fate of their illegal status. Many of them hadn't been to their countries of origin since birth and no longer had ties to those countries (often Mexico). They considered themselves American, working, going to school, and serving in the military, but were at risk for deportation.
Moving into his second term, the Obama administration encouraged Congress to pass long-in-the-pipeline legislation that would normalize these children's legal status—called the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act—but it failed, largely over disagreements about proposals about paths to citizenship for them.
To provide some temporary protection to this group of immigrants, Obama signed an executive order on June 15, 2012 to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. This program gave applicants two years of protection from deportation and made them eligible to work. DACA recipients, known as Dreamers in reference to the failed DREAM Act, have to apply to renew their eligibility every two years at a cost of nearly $500.
In September 2017, President Donald Trump moved to phase out DACA by March 2018, again via executive order. This set off a series of legal challenges, even involving the Supreme Court, with federal district judges ordering a stay on the order and the Trump administration to process applications. As of July 2018, the Trump administration is processing renewals but the fate of new applications and court decisions remain unclear. Limbo once again for the Dreamers.
DACA protects a very small proportion of undocumented immigrants—about 6% of the overall undocumented population. But, it has become symbolic of the larger heated debate around immigration in the United States.
President Trump and other nativists use DACA as emblematic of all problems with immigration policy in the US while pro-immigration activists point to the professional, academic, and military accomplishments of DACA recipients as patriotic signs of their contributions to the US economy and society.
The complexities of DACA have compelled President Trump to use the program to get Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, with Trump sometimes saying he will concede DACA protections for border wall funding. As with Obama before him, efforts have been fruitless.
Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
Who uses DACA?
DACA is most often used as a noun for the policy itself and its protections, but it's also used as an adjective to describe program participants—either positively or negatively.
I’m a #DACA kid.
By the time I was 12, I witnessed 3 murders, heavy gang activity, violence everywhere.
My parents left everything behind to give me a better chance in life.
People can be against that all they want to, my parents saved my life.
— Fern (@FernKurago) July 3, 2018
@realDonaldTrump You betrayed us once with amnesty for DACA illegals,now you will double down with an open borders Kethledge for SCOTUS? Shame!
— redware (@redware2) July 6, 2018
Pro-immigration activists also use DACA to support their cause, sparking the hashtag "#DefendDACA."
Every racist, bigoted decision Trump has made had been fought in the courts and every time the people have won. Contrary to his own beliefs, he is NOT king of the US and we have checks and balances. #DefendDACA #ProtectDreamers https://t.co/9vwADARCYe
— 🦋 𝒞𝒶𝓉𝒽𝓁𝑒𝑒𝓃 𝐵𝓊𝓇𝓀𝑒 🦋 (@ItsMeCathi) April 25, 2018
They are likely to reference DACA in order to get the word out about the program in order to encourage more people to apply. The hashtag "#DACA" is also most often used by the pro-immigration camp to draw attention to their posts on immigration and Dreamers in particular.
— Jeff Merkley (@JeffMerkley) June 30, 2018
DACA is very commonly discussed in states with large Latino immigrant populations, such as California, Texas, and New York.
Shout out to DACA AMERICANS that are doing the most American thing of all!!! They are fighting for their “inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”
@Johnnyrodr10, July, 2018
Did you ever think to ask why we need "check points"? Or just complain like you care? People r coming here ILLEGALLY, taking advantage of our system. What do u think caused 11M plus illegals to be "in the shadows" (DACA) - Smarten up #LiberalismIsAMentalDisorder
@rocketsales44, July, 2018
[John] Kelly, who is an immigration hardliner, also said, according to NBC, that he had stopped the President from making a “hasty deal” that would have helped the Dreamers; on a separate occasion, he had suggested that anyone eligible for DACA who hadn’t yet signed up for it was, perhaps, just “lazy.”
Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, May, 2018