Despite high hopes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle – as well as from many young, undocumented immigrants in Texas – two recent immigration measures have failed to make it to a vote before Congress. However, both measures were proposed as amendments to a broader defense policy bill that Congress is currently considering.
In May 2014, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, a number of young immigrants traveled from Texas to our nation’s capital in order to attend a rally held in support of one of the immigration measures, which was spearheaded by Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California. The amendment would have provided some undocumented immigrants with a path to U.S. citizenship through military service. However, despite strong bipartisan support for the measure, it was rejected by the Rules Committee who voted against allowing a full vote on the amendment.
The second amendment, backed by U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas, proposed a narrower reform that would have allowed certain undocumented immigrants to apply for admission to elite military academies like West Point but unlike Denham’s proposal, Castro’s proposal would not have provided for a change of immigration status. Further, this measure was also rejected by House leaders and failed to reach a vote.
In Texas, both proposals found widespread support among participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (“DACA”), as these individuals could then apply to either of the new programs proposed.
DACA is a policy that was introduced in 2012 as a way to provide deportation protection for certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children – many of whom have no memory of ever living outside the U.S. and consider this nation their home.
Through DACA, eligible individuals can receive temporary deportation deferrals that remain in effect for two years at a time and can be renewed until the policy changes or becomes law, possibly with a path to Citizenship. Since the date of its inception, the DACA policy has been well received by immigrants and immigration advocacy groups in Texas, many of whom have found that the deferrals have given them the opportunity to integrate more effectively into American society by obtaining legal work and being able to obtain valid driver’s licenses.
Although DACA recipients do not gain access to citizenship or permanent resident status through the DACA policy, they can remain in the United States and not fear deportation or detention, thus greatly increasing the number of applicants interested in the program as many of these individuals participate in and contribute to the American economy. For example, research by the American Immigration Council found that nearly two-thirds of all DACA recipients have started a new job and can drive legally since receiving their deferral approval, while more than half have opened their first bank accounts and over one-third have received their first credit cards.
A person who has questions about immigration initiatives; immigration policies such as DACA; immigration relief or other issues relating to immigration, naturalization or deportation in the United States should schedule a consultation with an experienced immigration Attorney who can provide detailed information about the legal issues relating to their specific circumstances.