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By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Dreamers rally; CC by SA-NC

November 23, 2020 (San Diego) – The fate of some 650,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, or “Dreamers,” has been in limbo during four years of the Trump administration.  But now a court ruling and a proposed key appointment by President-Elect Joe Biden give Dreamers hope of avoiding deportation.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by the Obama administration protected Dreamers from being deported. But the Trump administration has fought to end those protections.  Despite a Supreme Court ruling in June finding that President Trump failed to follow rule-making procedures when he ordered the program ended, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf again ordered the program suspended in July.

But last week, a federal judge in New York ruled that Wolf was named to his position illegally, thus all actions that he took, including the order to end DACA, are invalid. The court ruling following an August ruling by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, which found that Wolf as well as his acting deputy were ineligible to run the agency under the Vacancies Reform Act.

Karen Tumlin, a lawyer representing a plaintiff in a suit challenging Wolf’s authority, called the federal court ruling “another win for DACA recipients and those who have been waiting years to apply for the program for the first time.”

President-Elect Joe Biden, set to take office January 20, yesterday announced he plans to appoint Alejandro Mayorkas to be the new Secretary of the department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is considered the architect who created the DACA program in 2012 and oversaw the program as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.

His appointment, if approved by the Senate, would provide relief for DACA recipients living in limbo and fear of deportation since Trump took office.

An immigrant from Cuba, Mayorkas posted on Twitter, “When I was very young, the United State provided my family and me a place of refuge.  Now I have been nominated to be the DHS secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

His nomination will likely face opposition in the Senate, particularly if Republicans retain control after two special elections in January that will determine the Senate’s balance of power.  Mayorkas’ previously faced scrutiny for his earlier DHS appointment due to allegations that he may have showed favoritism to Democratic office holders including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when Mayorkas served at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services, to help clear certain visas upon their request. Mayorkas denied any wrongdoing, stating that he intervened because the system was breaking down.

Even if Senators refuse to confirm the appointment, Biden will be free to appoint an acting Secretary of Homeland Security to replace Wolf, undoubtedly selection an official who will be sympathetic to protecting young immigrants, many of whom have lived in the U.S. since infancy, speak only English, have attended college and secured jobs since growing up in America.


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