What States Can Do to Mitigate the Harm If DACA, TPS, and Other Forms of Immigration Relief End
The Trump administration has systematically made it more difficult for non–U.S. citizens who’ve lived in the U.S. for years, even decades, to obtain immigration relief. Two avenues to relief, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS), have allowed hundreds of thousands of community members across the country to thrive. Yet DACA and TPS are under threat. They remain available only because of effective advocacy, organizing, and court orders. The option to request DACA and the designations of some countries as countries whose citizens and former residents are eligible for TPS have been kept in place only because of orders issued by federal courts. Even the reprieve resulting from the June 28, 2020, U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing DACA to remain available may be temporary if the Trump administration attempts to terminate DACA again.
Forms of immigration relief, such as DACA and TPS, that don’t include a pathway to U.S. citizenship are themselves assailable when an administration is hostile to immigration and immigrants, and they leave the people who benefit from them perpetually vulnerable. Despite the fact that DACA and TPS have allowed some immigrants to thrive, these temporary forms of relief can always be taken away. Congress’s failure to create a permanent solution for people currently eligible for DACA and TPS leaves families and communities at risk of their members being deported, forced to leave their homes. Deportations almost inevitably split families apart, causing long-term harm, in multiple ways, to local communities.
But the present administration’s hostility to immigrants and Congress’s failure to create permanent solutions are only part of the story. States, counties, and cities, recognizing the importance of their community members, have created immigrant-inclusive policies and programs. The federal-level immigration crisis offers an opportunity for state and local advocates and policymakers to assess what can be done to support immigrant communities. Since immigration relief is fluid and sometimes fickle, how can localities support their residents regardless of their immigration status? A person’s connection to home and community doesn’t change when their immigration status changes. How can state and local policies reach individuals in the places they live and have an immediate, if incremental, impact on their lives? How can they ensure that a person’s immigration status doesn’t prevent them from thriving
The purpose of this guide is to present tangible policy opportunities that state and local advocates can fight for in their communities. If we all are to thrive together, we need more durable campaigns that support all residents regardless of their immigration status. Campaigns to make driver’s licenses and health care available for all could make a big difference. The policies described here are presented as part of a continuum, based on what may be appropriate for different communities. In some cases, they are more immediate, initial steps toward transformative change. The threat that DACA and TPS might be taken away presents an opportunity for states and localities to come together to find enduring solutions that minimize harm and protect the health and well-being of everyone who lives in them.
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PROMOTING JUST AND DIGNIFIED WORK
- Create safe workplaces free from discrimination
- Empower workers with information about their legal rights; support workers through acts of solidarity
- Prohibit unjust use of the immigration enforcement system in the workplace by employers and local law enforcement
MAINTAINING AND EXPANDING ACCESS TO EDUCATION
- Establish paths to education for all residents and maintain continuity of access for current students by establishing a tuition equity law or policy and pairing it with state- or institution-based financial aid
- Craft policies that make sure affordability is not a higher burden for students without immigration status
PROFESSIONAL AND CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
- Remove barriers to licensure based on immigration status
- Establish professional and career opportunities available regardless of immigration status
ACCESS TO DRIVER’S LICENSES AND IDENTITY DOCUMENTS
- Provide opportunities for people to maintain benefits of identification
- Maximize protections of data held by DMVs and other state agencies
LIMITING THE THREAT OF DEPORTATION
- Administrative action or ordinances that stop cooperation with federal immigration enforcement
- Policies and judicial rules that establish safe spaces for health centers, schools/colleges, and courthouses
- Government-funded deportation defense/universal representation programs