WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – known as DACA.
Advocates are using the anniversary to fuel a renewed push for Congress to create a permanent path to citizenship for Dreamers.
DACA, put into place during the Obama Administration, protects undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, from deportation. The program also allows them to work.
"Dreamers putting their health, that of their families, on the line for the rest of the nation during the pandemic. They deserve better than to live in uncertainty, or fear in change of status or possible deportation," said Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
Senator Padilla was one of the many lawmakers voicing their support for immigration reform at a rally in Washington D.C. Wednesday.
He said California is home to more immigrants and Dreamers than any other state.
Following the rally, hundreds of immigrants, advocates, business owners and university leaders visited more than 100 offices in the capitol to try to convince lawmakers to pass the Dream Act. They said while the anniversary is a celebration, it's bittersweet because DACA was meant to be temporary.
"DACA was supposed to be a bridge, a stopgap measure for long-lasting relief and a pathway to citizenship, not just for DACA recipients, but all undocumented people. It has been a decade of congressional inaction, and this inaction will get people, and has gotten people like me, deported and detained," said Greisa Martinez Rosas, an undocumented immigrant and the executive director of the organization United We Dream.
DACA was created to give relief to undocumented immigrants two years at a time.
But since its inception, it has been challenged by lawsuits.
And the Trump Administration wanted to rescind the program. In 2017, the government vowed to stop accepting DACA applications and processing renewals. That set off a series of lawsuits that eventually resulted in a temporary injunction to keep DACA alive.
There have been many legal fights and protests surrounding DACA, arguing whether President Barack Obama had the authority to create it.
In 2021, another ruling said it was unlawful, but allowed it to continue for current recipients. That ruling has been appealed, with oral arguments scheduled for July 6.
"The reality is that DACA will end at the Supreme Court again, leaving immigrant young people like myself and many others in a continued state of limbo," said Martinez Rosas.
In January of last year, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum noting his administration’s intent to "preserve" and "fortify" DACA. But it’s unclear what that means for the future of the program.
The Dream Act would permanently protect certain Dreamers, giving them a pathway to legal citizenship.
"Congress can no longer continue to kick this can down the road, we have to have a permanent solution signed into law," said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.)
The Dream Act was first introduced more than 20 years ago, and has been re-introduced at least 11 times since then. But despite bi-partisan support, it hasn’t become law.
"People talk about these young people. They’re no longer these young people, they are adults. They are working in our communities, they deserve the right to be on that pathway (to citizenship). They belong. They’ve been here contributing for so long. How much more do they have to prove?" said Senator Catherine Cortez Matco (D-Nevada).
More than 550 college presidents and leaders at big businesses have been voicing their support for the Dream Act, in order to protect their students and employees.
"At Microsoft we have 88 colleagues who are Dreamers and who, despite that uncertainty, get up, giving us their best every day," said Portia Wu, managing director of government relations at Microsoft. "We want to keep these valued employees here to contribute and to help our economy continue to grow."
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.