Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has filed a lawsuit on behalf of ten immigration agents which challenges President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. DACA defers deportation action against qualified young undocumented immigrants for two years. Qualified undocumented immigrants will need to meet a number of qualifications to be eligible for DACA. Those who receive DACA status will be able to remain in the US legally for two years without fear of deportation and will be able to get authorization to work in the US.
Kobach is an informal adviser to Mitt Romney. The immigration agents he is representing claim that DACA places them in a difficult position, since the policy makes them choose either to disobey their bosses by not following DACA or violating the law by not deporting undocumented immigrants. According to Kobach, DACA requires the agents to either follow federal law (as they are sworn to do) or disobey their superiors.
The lawsuit names Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and immigrations and customs Director John Morton as defendants. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas. The lawsuit is being financed by Numbers USA. That organization has been advocating for smaller numbers of immigrants.
According to a representative from Homeland Security, DACA is not incompatible with federal policy. In fact, it is in line with current policy, which is focused on the deportation only of those who are criminals or a threat to national security.
DACA has many supporters, who claim that the policy is a good middle ground between the current situation of undocumented immigrants and the DREAM Act, which would have given some undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. While DACA does not do that, it does allow qualified undocumented immigrants to live and work legally in the US for two years. To qualify, undocumented immigrants must be no older than 30 and must have entered the US before they were sixteen. They must also have lived in the US for at least five years and must have a high school education or military service and a clean criminal record. The government expects to receive over one million applications for DACA.
While DACA has many supporters, it also has critics. Critics point out that DACA does not go far enough and does not provide deferral for family members. They also note that DACA disqualifies many young undocumented immigrants – including those who are only a few months past 30. Further, they note that since DACA only provides status for two years, it provides no long-term hope. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the policy is simply a political move to attract voters. Some states – including Mississippi and Arizona — are even moving to bar DACA status holders from receiving public benefits or even driver’s licenses. The new policy may be repealed by a new president as well, which could place DACA applicants in a difficult position.
Critics are asking whether the lawsuit Kobach has filed is an indication of Mitt Romney’s stance on the DACA issue. So far, there has been no indication whether Romney would repeal DACA, but Republicans have questioned whether President Obama had the authority to pass the policy in the first place.