Originally published by The Hill
Congressional inaction on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is impacting the program's recipients, even as a court order provides them with work and deportation protections for now.
Beneficiaries of DACA say that the program's limitations and the heated politics around it have sowed confusion among potential employers.
"That has been unfortunately a trademark of the DACA program since its inception," said Greisa Martínez Rosas, deputy executive director of United We Dream (UWD), an influential immigrant youth network.
"You’ve seen companies and employers have a lot of questions. What does this mean? Does it negatively impact their corporation?" she added.
President Trump rescinded DACA, which was created during the Obama administration, in September. Trump gave Congress until March 5 to replace it with permanent legislation to protect “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.
On that deadline, the roughly 690,000 active DACA recipients would begin losing their benefits en masse without the ability to renew the two-year permits that allowed them to legally live and work in the United States.
But a California court blocked Trump's order, allowing DACA recipients to keep applying to the Department of Homeland Security for renewals.
That protection was welcome for DACA beneficiaries, but the uncertainty of the court order highlighted the original program's shortcomings.
Karla Monterroso, CEO of Code2040, an organization that connects black and Hispanic applicants to tech jobs, said some companies in the industry are reluctant to hire DACA recipients.
"I’ve heard a variety of things,” she said. "Everything from 'ICE has threatened to do away with them if they hire DACA students’ to ‘If a student doesn’t have papers, they are up for penalties should they hire them, and they are unsure of how long a student will have status.’"
Monterroso said her organization has stopped asking students if they're DACA beneficiaries for fear of creating a paper trail that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could follow in deportation procedures.
But in previous years, said Monterroso, roughly 10 percent of the students going through her program were in DACA.
Monterroso said those recipients have been following the political debate closely as Congress failed on several occasions to make DACA benefits permanent.
"At this point in time they are so frazzled about not knowing a date," Monterroso said. "That is absolutely without a shadow of a doubt traumatizing these students."
After Trump canceled the program in September, Congress went into overdrive negotiating possible DACA solutions, but ultimately focused on other issues as the courts stepped in.
"It’s kind of been put on the back burner, the sense of urgency among some of the legislators has gone away," said Rep. Nannette Barragán (D-Calif.).
Some Democrats, particularly members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have fought to keep the issue at the forefront while trading jabs with Trump and Republicans over who’s to blame for the missed deadline.
"The refusal of Congressional Republican leaders and President Trump to accept a deal to protect Dreamers leaves more than a million young adults in a legal purgatory," said Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.). "These talented young men and women have worked so hard to overcome challenges and contribute to our society in a positive way. Now they are facing an uncertain future."
But Trump's taken the lead, via Twitter, calling out Democrats for "abandoning" Dreamers.
"Much can be done with the $1.6 Billion given to building and fixing the border wall. It is just a down payment. Work will start immediately. The rest of the money will come — and remember DACA, the Democrats abandoned you (but we will not)!" he tweeted Sunday after signing the federal spending bill that did not include DACA provisions.
That back and forth has left Dreamers in the lurch, but some companies have purposefully opened their doors to DACA recipients.
"For the same amount of people who are not wanting to take risks, there’s more who intentionally want to hire people on DACA," said Martínez.
For example, shortly after Trump ended DACA in September, Starbucks issued a release saying they'd lobby for a legislative replacement and provide legal advice for their undocumented employees.
The tech industry has been vocal about its support of DACA, but that hasn't always translated into jobs.
"Support hasn’t always translated into those companies being willing to put their weight behind Dreamers and hire them," said Monterroso.
For some companies, the issue comes down to a time commitment.
"Sometimes employers want long-term people," said Barragán. "When we look to hire we often ask people for commitment."
And politicians on both sides of the aisle say short-term permits are unrealistic for employees and employers.
"I don’t think it’s fair to have them keep having to circle back every three years. It’s pretty hard to plan your life even if you’re 99 percent certain it’s an automatic renewal, that there’s the potential that three years from now you might not be renewed," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a conservative Freedom Caucus member who supports DACA reform, told The Hill in February.
Lack of understanding about the benefits and obligations connected to hiring foreign applicants — especially those on DACA — is not limited to private companies.
Dreamers often run into red tape when applying to join state bar associations after law school or programs that require continued employment authorization over periods longer than two years.
"Some of the universities are thinking twice about accepting DACA-recipient nurses because they know they might not be able to complete the program, given how the program is structured," said Martínez.
DACA recipients also face some statutory limitations. In Georgia, for example, undocumented residents, even those receiving DACA protections, are banned from attending the state's top five universities.
While activists support educating potential employees and employers on the best hiring practices for DACA recipients, most supporters of a DACA fix say beneficiaries will remain in precarious conditions until Congress passes legislation on the matter.
"College students who have been preparing for a career after graduation are now worried they may not be able to find a job. High schoolers who have studied hard and were preparing for college may have to abandon their dreams of being the first in their family to go to college," said Sanchez.
"Their lives are being upended because of partisan politics. It is long past time for Congress to give Dreamers the certainty they deserve."