Some people have been wondering whether or not the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy announced by the Department of Homeland Security a few months ago is the same thing as the DREAM Act. This is simply not true, but it is an easy mistake to make. The requirements for both programs are incredibly similar, but there is a distinct and very important difference to notice.
This difference is rooted—and I am risking sounding melodramatic here—in the very foundation of the United States government. The DREAM Act was a proposed law that went through congress, but failed. The DACA program is an executive order. The authority behind these two policies fall within two entirely different branches of the government. This means that neither is able to accomplish what the other does. The DREAM Act is incapable of being implemented quickly because it must pass through both houses of congress and indeed it was unable to do that. The executive order that Obama gave is incapable of conferring any sort of actual status upon the immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action program.
What Deferred Action does is exactly that. It simply pushes a particular immigrant’s deportation proceedings into the future indefinitely. The Department of Homeland Security simply decides to avoid taking part in any action with respect to eligible immigrants’ cases.
Some people have been critical of the Obama administration by claiming that he has somehow gone around the already existent government processes in place to handle such reform. However, Obama has not overstepped his bounds as a president in any such way. It is perfectly within his office’s rights to change how one of his departments do something, and really that’s all this is: a change in policy. None of the policy falls within the jurisdiction of congress and is therefore not a breach of checks and balances.
Even though Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is not an official law, it may encourage lawmakers to forge legislations of the kind that the DREAM Act intended. Especially if the policy begins to produce high profile cases of immigrants receiving true benefits of the program and feeding back into the system the resources they were afforded.