How DACA went from temporary plan to forever battle

Political Theater, Episode 210

DACA supporters rally outside the Supreme Court in 2019 as the justices hear arguments on the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program. The court later blocked the administration from rescinding the program, in a 5-4 ruling.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
DACA supporters rally outside the Supreme Court in 2019 as the justices hear arguments on the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program. The court later blocked the administration from rescinding the program, in a 5-4 ruling. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Jason Dick
Posted July 22, 2021 at 8:00am

Initially conceived as a temporary solution for vulnerable immigrants, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has become an intractable political battlefield as Congress continues to punt, year after year, a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s immigration system.

After Congress stalemated on protecting one of the most sympathetic populations of immigrants — people brought to the country as children but without legal status, also known as Dreamers — President Barack Obama in 2012 created the DACA program to provide them temporary protected status. The program, with rare bipartisan support, enabled those covered to get work permits and go to school without fear of deportation. After Donald Trump took office in 2017, he tried to end the program. When that failed, critics of the program went to court to end it.

The latest chapter has underscored the fragility of a government policy that has been around for almost 10 years: A district court judge in Texas last week struck it down, blocking new applications but allowing the more than 600,000 current recipients to stay in the program. More court cases will work their way through the system, but the onus is now on a Congress that has tried, and failed, for years to address the topic.

CQ Roll Call staff writer Suzanne Monyak joins us on the Political Theater podcast to talk about why even a popular program with support on both sides of the aisle continues to be such a political football, as well as what’s next.