Maryland legislators weigh in on DACA wind down

EASTON — Maryland legislators wasted no time responding to President Donald Trump’s declaration that the DACA program will end in six months unless Congress acts. In a Tuesday, Sept. 5, press conference, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a 2012 executive action President Barack Obama put in place as a “temporary stopgap measure.” Both Republicans and Democrats appealed to what they considered the nation’s founding principles.“At its core, America exists because people seeking freedom worked hard to build a better life,” U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) said in a Sept. 5 press release. “DREAMers today deserve that same chance,” Van Hollen said. “They came out of the shadows because of their desire to get an education and contribute to our country, and in turn, our government promised to protect them. It would go against the nation’s founding ideals to break that promise. We cannot let the Trump Administration get away with tearing apart innocent families and wreaking havoc on our economy in Maryland.” DREAMer refers to those who would have qualified under several iterations of the failed Senate bill introduced in 2001, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. It was the bill’s failure that prompted Obama to put in place the executive action known as DACA, “to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.” In the June 12, 2012, executive action, he urged Congress to act “precisely because this is temporary.” “The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program is taking our country backwards,” Van Hollen said. “It’s important to go after gangs like MS-13, but it is an insult to decency and common sense for DREAMers … to be targeted for deportation.” Sessions stressed that the rescission was in keeping with the nation’s heritage and practice of “properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.” He explained the legal and constitutional foundation for the decision. “Acting (Homeland Security Security) Secretary Duke has chosen, appropriately, to initiate a wind down process. This will enable DHS to conduct an orderly change and fulfill the desire of this administration to create a time period for Congress to act — should it so choose. We firmly believe this is the responsible path. Simply put, if we are to further our goal of strengthening the constitutional order and the rule of law in America, the Department of Justice cannot defend this type of overreach,” Sessions said. In his letter to Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, Sessions wrote, “DACA was effectuated by the previous administration through executive action, without proper statutory authority and with no established end-date, after Congress’ repeated rejection of proposed legislation that would have accomplished a similar result. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.” In a Sept. 5 press release, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, called the DACA policy a “gross overreach of executive power (that) … undermined the authority of the legislative branch.” “I strongly support President Trump’s decision to end the … (DACA) policy,” Harris said. “President Trump is returning that power to Congress.” Sessions wrote that DACA was liable to be struck down by the courts eventually. “Because the DACA policy has the same legal and constitutional defects that the courts recognized as to DAPA, it is likely that potentially imminent litigation would yield similar results with respect to DACA,” he wrote. DAPA stands for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents policy which then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly rescinded in June. In a Sept. 6 tweet, Trump wrote, “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”Running for Harris’s first district congressional seat, Democrat Michael Pullen also issued a press release on Sept. 5. He called the “announcement by President Trump to end our nation’s DACA program … a stunning reversal of the compassionate treatment towards children who arrived in our country through no choice of their own.” U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said in a Sept. 5 press release, “America is a compassionate and diverse country that values hard work and community. The Trump Administration’s order to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program inexplicably upends these American values and will rip apart the lives of 800,000 individuals — DREAMers — who for the most part have known no other home but the USA.” Citing statistics from the Center for American Progress, Cardin said, “In Maryland, estimates show there are almost 10,000 DACA recipients, and nearly 9,000 DACA workers, with an annual GDP boost to the state of more than a half-billion dollars annually.” “Clearly written with little thought of the human consequences, this latest action by the Trump Administration will harm our economic and national security,” Cardin said. “It will break families and drive many underground, out of work and into poverty.” According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS “initiated the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DHS will provide a limited, six-month window during which it will consider certain requests for DACA and applications for work authorization, under specific parameters.” The USCIS website has outlined the next steps for phasing out DACA: “All DACA benefits are provided on a two-year basis, so individuals who currently have DACA will be allowed to retain both DACA and their work authorizations (EADs) until they expire.” “USCIS will adjudicate, on an individual, case by case basis properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for employment authorization documents (EADs) that have been accepted as of Sept. 5, 2017; properly filed pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs from current beneficiaries that have been accepted as of Sept. 5, and from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, that have been accepted as of Oct. 5, 2017,” the website states. In addition, USCIS states that “individuals who have not submitted an application by Sept. 5, for an initial request under DACA may no longer apply. USCIS will reject all applications for initial requests received after Sept. 5.”