The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments Monday on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program which provided legal protections for more than 700,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.
Alaska’s Congressional delegation have expressed varying degrees of support for the program’s goal of protecting childhood arrivals, while criticizing its implementation by the Obama administration.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, gave the most full-throated support for the program. In a prepared statement to the Empire, Murkowski said she stood with Dreamers, the name given to childhood arrivals.
“Today, we all should be renewing the call for a legislative solution for the Dreamers,” Murkowski said. “I strongly believe that we simply should not punish children for the actions of their parents. I for one, stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide a legal, certain path forward for the Dreamers.”
Murkowski noted her support for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant minors. The Dream Act has been stalled in Congress since 2001 and has seen several iterations, including one in 2019.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, was more critical of the Obama administration’s approach to implementing DACA but supported its goals.
In response to a request for comment, Sullivan’s press secretary Mike Anderson said, “Sullivan supports finding a solution for DACA recipients – but prefers that Congress create the solution rather than through executive action or judicial review.”
In a February 2018 statement, Sullivan expressed support for the Secure and Succeed Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for DACA recipients but also included strengthening security at the southern border.
“I am committed to establishing strong immigration policies that strengthen the economy, protect American workers, and bolster border security,” Sullivan’s statement said. “While also exhibiting a level of compassion that is woven into the fabric of our nation.”
The office of Alaska’s only House Representative, Don Young, did not respond to a request for comment but according to the congressman’s website, he supports some kind of resolution for DACA.
“Our country’s current immigration system needs to be updated to meet the growing border security challenges which is why I believe legislative action must be taken,” Young said in a statement following the failure of two House resolutions in 2018.
The DACA program was initiated in 2012 and allowed for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to receive protection from deportation and the legal ability to work. The program does not, however, provide recipients with a path to citizenship.
The Trump Administration has sought to end DACA, though President Donald Trump has praised the goals of the program itself.
“I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” Trump said in a 2017 statement calling for an end to the program. “But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
Trump accused the program of spurring a humanitarian crisis of a wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America to the U.S. many of whom, the president said, would go on to join violent gangs.
The Obama administration created the program using an executive order, something which his critics say undermines Congress’ role as lawmaker and the separation of powers.
On Monday, the Supreme Court heard the first round of oral arguments whether the Trump administration had legal grounds to end the program.
The New York Times reported Monday the Supreme Court’s conservative majority “appeared ready to side with the Trump administration.”
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 280 DACA applications have been approved in Alaska between 2012 and June 30, 2019, including renewals. DACA protections are good for two years. Under current regulations certain recipients and retain their protected status until 2021.
Immigrants eligible for DACA must have been brought to the U.S. at age 16 or younger. Over 50 percent of all DACA recipients live in Texas and California, according to federal data.