SALINAS — Monterey County has been declared a “Dreamers County,” one of the first counties in the nation to enact a resolution supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants a temporary reprieve from deportation for so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants who were brought into the country as children by their parents.
Monterey County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the historic resolution at its Sept. 12 meeting in Salinas. Later that day, Santa Cruz County also declared itself a “Dreamers County.”
“While it might be symbolic, one of the things I think (this resolution) does is that it sends the Dreamers the message that this Board of Supervisors cares about what’s going on,” said District 3 Supervisor Simon Salinas. “But, more importantly, what it does is it tells our congressional delegation the importance of this issue and how we look to our congress to do whatever it can do to figure out a compromise … to resolve this.”
The DACA program — introduced by former President Barack Obama in 2012 — permits certain individuals who came to the United States as undocumented juveniles to request a temporary reprieve from deportation known as “deferred action.” The program has allowed more than 230,000 undocumented residents of California — nearly 800,000 in total nationwide — who entered the country as minors to apply to receive legal work permits and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump announced that he would repeal the program after a six-month period, urging Congress to find a replacement in the meantime. The Trump administration will begin phasing out DACA on March 5, 2018.
“When this happened, I think there was a cloud cast over this nation in terms of how could anybody take such mean-spirited action to affect over 800,000 lives here in our country, folks that have been here and have dreams and aspirations,” Salinas said. “Just plain and simple, history will judge. If this administration can resolve this as quickly as possible, then I think they will be given very positive kudos and will be written as Congress has stepped up and dealt with what should have been resolved many, many years ago.”
DACA beneficiaries whose status expires before March 5, 2018, can renew their two-year deportation protection and work permit by Oct. 5.
In order to qualify for DACA status, an individual must have been brought to the United States before their 16th birthday, must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security, and must meet other requirements.
According to the county, the elimination of the DACA program could result in a loss of hundreds of billions of dollars over the first 10 years due to a reduction in the American workforce, as well as a gross domestic product loss of more than $11 billion per year in California.
Salinas and the other four Monterey County supervisors are urging Congress to act swiftly through legislative action to continue and codify the Obama-era program.
“This is not something that you can postpone,” he said. “This is dealing with real people’s lives.”