U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman has joined U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat, to introduce legislation to allay one of the big fears of people who participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — that the information they provided the government will be used against them.
DACA, as its known, provides protection from deportation and authorization to work legally to immigrants who arrived in the United States as children without proper documentation. Implemented as an executive order in 2012 by President Barack Obama, DACA has now been rescinded by the administration of President Donald J. Trump in fulfillment of one of his campaign promises. Its protections will expire in six months unless Congress adopts a replacement.
When DACA recipients applied for the program, they had to provide detailed evidence that they qualify — which is also evidence that they were living in the country without proper authorization. One of the big questions for DACA recipients has been whether the information in their files, information they voluntarily provided to the government, will be used to find them and deport them.
In an FAQ about the repeal of the program, the Department of Homeland Security said this information won’t be “proactively” shared with enforcement entities, but the caveat that followed is pretty discomfiting, if you’re a DACA recipient wondering about the future.
Information provided to USCIS in DACA requests will not be proactively provided to ICE and CBP for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings, unless the requestor meets the criteria for the issuance of a Notice To Appear or a referral to ICE under the criteria set forth in USCIS’ Notice to Appear guidance (www.uscis.gov/NTA). This policy, which may be modified, superseded, or rescinded at any time without notice, is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law by any party in any administrative, civil, or criminal matter.
The Protect DREAMer Confidentiality Act would prohibit the disclosure of that information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection for any purpose other than implementing the DACA Program, unless there are national security concerns.
“DREAMers who came out of the shadows and voluntarily submitted their personal information to the federal government did the right thing,” Coffman, an Aurora Republican, said in a press release announcing his sponsorship of the legislation. “Congress should pass this bill to ensure the personal information they provided is not used against them.”
There are 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States, 17,000 of whom live in Colorado.
The Senate sponsor of the bill is Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico.
DACA recipients are also known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide them a path to full legal status, not just the temporary reprieve that DACA provides. An earlier version of the bill was defeated, leading Obama to push DACA as an executive order.
A new version of the DREAM Act has been introduced, and both of Colorado’s senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, signed on as co-sponsors after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program.
Coffman is also the sponsor of the Bridge Act, a bill that would extend the DACA program for three years as a legislative program rather than an executive one, securing their status while Congress works on a long-term solution to the status of the DREAMers and other, more contentious aspects of immigration policy. However, as The Denver Post reported Friday, Coffman is backing off of efforts to force a floor vote on that bill.
“I had a conversation with House Speaker (Paul) Ryan (on) Wednesday morning and he said that he’s committed to get DACA passed, albeit he wants to do it with some type of border security; I’m fine with that,” Coffman told the Post. “What I told him is I’d hold it back but if I saw that he wasn’t making progress in terms of putting something forward, that I would push the discharge petition.”
This story has been updated to include information about Coffman easing up on efforts to pass the Bridge Act.