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What is DACA, and who are 'Dreamers?'

We explain what the program is, how it started, and who it affects.

What is DACA?

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The program was announced by the Obama administration's Department of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012

Under DACA, people who were brought to the United States illegally as children can apply for a two-year period of deferred action, meaning they won't be deported, the federal government's website explains. Those people, who had to meet certain conditions, can also apply for work permits.

And what are "Dreamers?"

"Dreamers" is the term used to describe people brought to the U.S. illegally while still a child.

How many people is that?

Officials estimate there are about 787,000 Dreamers in the U.S. who are protected under DACA, including nearly 6,300 in Minnesota

Why are people fighting over DACA?

The Trump administration on Sept. 5, 2017, announced plans to shut down DACA, arguing the program was an administrative overreach by the Obama White House and that it should be up to Congress to decide on immigration policy.

Some states, including Minnesota, filed lawsuits trying to block the rollback in the days after the announcement. They argued ending DACA could have serious domino effects – higher health care costs and more school dropouts, for example.

So what's happening with it?

Those lawsuits are still playing out.

On Jan. 9, 2018, a federal judge ruled DACA will be allowed to operate as normal as the legal process runs its course. (The White House wanted to start phasing out DACA immediately.)

So currently, DACA recipients can still apply for renewal and remain protected under the program, at least for now.

What's the future of DACA?

When former President Barack Obama announced DACA, he made it clear that the policy was "not a path to citizenship" and "not a permanent fix."

"This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people," he said, putting the responsibility on Congress to create a permanent solution.

That never happened while he was in office.

It's actually a similar view to President Donald Trump's White House.

In announcing the DACA rollback, the Department of Homeland Security said it would "wind the program down in an orderly fashion," giving Congress until March 5, 2018, to "deliver on appropriate legislative solutions."

So basically, it's Congress' responsibility to craft a permanent policy.

Will Congress actually do that?

Elected leaders are discussing it, with a possible compromise: DACA protections in exchange for border wall funding.

On Jan. 9, 2018, Trump held a publicly broadcast negotiation session with U.S. lawmakers, promising that if they come up with a solution, he'll sign it, USA Today reports.

The president has insisted part of that legislative solution, however, needs to include funding for a wall along the Mexico border.

"The wall is going to happen, or we're not going to have DACA," Trump said on Jan. 6, according to NPR.

Complicating things is a Jan. 19 deadline. Congress needs to agree to and pass a spending bill or face a partial federal government shutdown.

Where do Minnesota's lawmakers stand?

Assuming Congress takes up DACA protections, Minnesota's U.S. lawmakers will get a chance to vote on it.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith – both Democrats – have said they support DACA protections. Smith on CNN also said a border wall doesn't make "any sense."

DFL reps Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Collin Peterson (h/t MPR) and Rick Nolan (h/t Brainerd Dispatch) all criticized the decision to end DACA protections for Dreamers.

Meanwhile Republican Rep. Jason Lewis called DACA's original enactment overrearch, and GOP colleague Tom Emmer said he supported ending the program in favor of a Congressional solution, KAAL reported.

Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen took kind of a middle road, saying the "broken" immigration system needs to be fixed, but that those who came to the U.S. "through no fault of their own and have done nothing wrong" deserve to stay.

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