Blog Post: LEITF Members Continue to Support DACA
June 30, 2022
Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Blog
LEITF Members Continue to Support DACA
June 15, 2022, marked the ten-year anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This means that for ten years, young immigrants brought to the United States as children have felt safer in their communities because of protection from deportation, the ability to legally work in the U.S., and the opportunity to obtain state identification cards or driver’s licenses. However, it also means that for ten years, Congress has failed to pass a solution that provides a pathway to permanent status for these young immigrants.
The ten-year anniversary of DACA is a time to reflect on the many contributions of DACA recipients to law enforcement and their communities, as well as on what we can do to push for a permanent solution. Currently, new applicants are blocked from applying for DACA due to a decision last July by District Judge Andrew Hanen. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments on an appeal of this case on July 6, meaning that Dreamers continue to live in uncertainty as they await the outcome. As of December 2021, only 611,470 people held DACA status under Judge Hanen’s ruling, leaving many others with no protection from deportation. With so many lives hanging in the balance, now, more than ever, is a time when a push for a legislative solution is necessary.
Ahead of the ten-year anniversary, the LEITF called on Congress to create a permanent solution for DACA recipients. Members of the LEITF have long advocated for such a solution, continuously explaining that when immigrants feel safe to cooperate with law enforcement, the entire community is safer. Although DACA was not created with the purpose of helping law enforcement, it has become an important tool that must become permanent if immigrants are to continue working with law enforcement. Chief Chris Blue of Chapel Hill, North Carolina describes this best:
“When undocumented residents live in fear that interactions with local law enforcement officials could result in deportation, they are less likely to work with police or prosecutors. That hampers our investigation of individual crimes and creates fertile ground for criminal activity: Undocumented immigrants are frequent targets for robbery and workplace exploitation. DACA helps address these problems.
On the other hand, when more members of our community trust us, we are better able to protect immigrant populations from exploitation and violent crime. When immigrants are permitted to integrate fully, they are much more willing to cooperate with us. Nearly two-thirds of DACA recipients reported being less afraid of law enforcement, while 59 percent indicated that they were more likely to report crimes after having entered the program.”
With challenges to DACA continuing in courts and no legislative solution in sight, LEITF members continue to emphasize how DACA recipients are imperative to community safety. Sheriff Clayton of Washtenaw County, Michigan shared with us some insights into the important role of Dreamers in his community and why a legislative solution is important:
What role do Dreamers play in your community? How has DACA impacted law enforcement in your community?
“Dreamers are the young people going to school at our Community College and major universities, working on our front lines in various capacities to deliver services that enhance our lives, enjoying the art installations in our parks celebrating diversity, helping make our community better by pitching in at a neighborhood clean-up day, and serving as interpreters or liaisons for family members who may not speak English well or who are undocumented and too frightened of law enforcement or government to speak for themselves. Law enforcement in its truest sense is based on community trust and collaboration. DACA has allowed those young people to be able to feel safe, at least on a temporary basis, to interact with law enforcement on behalf of themselves, members of the undocumented community or those who have undocumented family members. By enhancing trust and cooperation DACA has helped to make our County safer.”
Do you have any stories from your interactions with Dreamers that you would like to share?
“I have been a long-time supporter of Dreamers and of immigration reform. We do not enforce federal immigration law here in Washtenaw County. We try to maintain ongoing positive and supportive relationships with all members of our community, which includes those who are undocumented. A few years ago, when a member of my staff told me that a group of DACA young people and their parents were having difficulty finding a safe place to meet to discuss options and possible changes to DACA, the Sheriff’s Office found a place and my staff member attended. Afterwards, some of the community members, parents of the DACA young people and the DACA students expressed how much it meant that they didn’t have to be afraid of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. They mentioned specifically how appreciative they were of the stances we have taken. They were given contact information and encouraged to reach out to us if they ever needed assistance.”
How would a permanent solution for DACA recipients and Dreamers impact law enforcement and public safety in your community?
“When I was first running for office back in 2008, I was asked to speak at a gathering of about 30-35 low-wage workers here in Washtenaw County brought together by an organization supporting workers’ rights. Most of this group were undocumented or had family members who were. As part of the discussion, I asked how many of the people in the room or someone they knew had not reported a crime because they were afraid of interaction with law enforcement related to immigration. Everyone in the room raised their hand. While they were not specifically DACA recipients, it illustrates the need for more trust and communication between police services organizations and immigrant communities. The lack of reporting of crimes because of fear of the people sworn to protect “everyone” regardless of citizenship or immigration status, impacts the community safety and wellness of the entire community. Having a permanent solution would not only provide a sense of security and life opportunity for the Dreamers themselves, but it would also provide a conduit to communities that currently do not feel comfortable interacting with law enforcement. Of course, the best solution would be long term immigration reform.”
To echo Sheriff Clayton’s words: we need long term immigration reform. A permanent solution for DACA recipients is the only way for them to truly feel safe working with law enforcement. With no such solution in sight, though, the push to create it can seem daunting. However, law enforcement officials can play an important role in advocating for this legislation. We asked Chief Blue and Sheriff Clayton how they think law enforcement can best get involved in supporting Dreamers. Here are their thoughts:
Chief Chris Blue: “For the purposes of public safety, DACA protects about 650,000 people who are emboldened to serve as productive — and vigilant — members of society. My hope is that other law enforcement leaders will lend their voices in support of a permanent solution for Dreamers.”
Sheriff Jerry Clayton: “I believe the best way for law enforcement to support Dreamers is to speak up and advocate whenever the opportunity presents itself, not just for DACA but for comprehensive permanent immigration reform. Immigration has always added to the American Dream. Dreamers are a consistent and successful reminder of what is possible when we do the right thing. The data shows that Dreamers are achievers and contributors, just as the vast majority of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are. It makes our communities safer and law enforcement easier when we have trusting, cooperative relationships with all the people who we are pledged to serve.”
The voices of law enforcement officials are important to the creation of a permanent solution for DACA recipients. The more that Congress understands how important it is to community safety, and how much law enforcement relies on it, the sooner they will write a legislative solution. As Sheriff Clayton says, advocacy whenever there is an opportunity is important for supporting Dreamers. People can also actively reach out to their Members of Congress over the phone, through email, or in a scheduled meeting. By bringing our voices together to speak up for Dreamers, we can help create a nation in which these young immigrants feel safe and have the opportunity to continue contributing to their communities.
Thank you to Chief Chris Blue (Chapel Hill, NC) and Sheriff Jerry Clayton (Washtenaw County, MI) for their contributions.
Written by Kaitlyn Long, LEITF Intern