Immigrant Scientists Face Uncertain Future with DACA Repeal
The Trump administration’s decision last week regarding the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has many immigrant scientists concerned about their futures. Since the announcement, media has reported on many students and early career scientists whose lives will be negatively impacted by the overturning of DACA.
The announcement left some wondering what DACA is exactly, and who it impacts. NPR answered many of the public’s questions:
DACA is a program created in 2012 by the Obama administration allowing young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study and obtain driver’s licenses.
DACA applicants had to be younger than 31 years old when the program began. They also had to prove that they had lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007, and that they had arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16.
Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. They have to be enrolled in high school or college, or serve in the military. Their status is renewable every two years.
There are about 800,000 DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, DACA will be phased out, with an official end in six months.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process all new applications received as of Sept. 5 and then stop accepting applications. DREAMers whose work permits expire before March 5, 2018, can apply for a two-year renewal, but they must meet an upcoming Oct. 5 deadline. The government will not terminate “previously issued deferred action or revoke Employment Authorization Documents.”
But the announcement by DHS also ends on an ominous (for DREAMers) note: DHS will “continue to exercise its discretionary authority to terminate or deny deferred action for any reason, at any time, with or without notice.”
Many DREAMers fear DHS’s ability to terminate deferred action without notice will cause them to be targets for deportation by immigration agents. Though many universities have issued statements condemning and opposing Trump’s decision, at least one story has come to light of a student being targeted and harassed by fellow students because of her undocumented status. Safety is only one of many concerns for undocumented STEM students, however.
Science Magazine states it is unclear how many scientists, engineers and STEM students will be affected by the repeal of DACA. What is clear, though, is aspiring scientists’ fears regarding funding.
Undocumented students aren’t eligible for NIH and NSF grants, even if they qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals benefits. According to Pacific Standard Magazine, many science students rely on funding from private groups such as Ford Foundation and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, as well assistantships from their schools, or prestigious fellowships from organizations that have stated missions to support “new Americans.” These fellowships typically extended eligibility to include DACA students, but not other undocumented students. With DACA’s promised end, these programs have been thrown into uncertainty, along with their undocumented applicants.
As Congress struggles to find a solution to protect DREAMers, current undocumented scientists fear they will lose the ability to work in the United States within the next 6 months. Karina, a recruiter and project manager for a California-based biotech company and Gabe, an aspiring science teacher in the Bronx, are just two of the countless number of scientists the US could lose.
For those interested, Mashable has a list of ways to help those affected by the DACA repeal.
Disclaimer: this blog is written by me, Britteny Watson-Ivey, and therefore any opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any of my employers or affiliates.