IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Expresses Deep Concern for the Decision to End the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Other Legal Avenues for Migrants and Refugees in the United States

October 11, 2017

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“the Inter-American Commission” or “IACHR”) expresses deep concern for the decision by the United States to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) parole program, announced by the Attorney General on September 5, 2017. The Inter-American Commission calls on the US Congress to regularize the migration status of DACA beneficiaries and other groups of migrants present in the United States and create a path to citizenship, without jeopardizing the human rights of other groups of migrants and refugees. The Commission further calls on the United States to reverse its policy of closing legal avenues to reach or gain status in the United States.

DACA, first introduced in 2012, grants renewable two-year deferments from deportation, as well as work authorization and the ability to apply for driver’s licenses, to qualifying applicants who arrived in the United States as children, are pursuing or have completed at least a high school education or military service, and who have not committed any serious crimes. There are currently about 800,000 DACA recipients (also known as “DREAMers”) in the United States; nearly 80 percent of them are from Mexico and a further 8 percent are from the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), and the average age at which they entered the US is six years old. The Commission notes that over the course of at least 10—and up to 35—years that DREAMers have lived in the United States, they have forged strong family and community ties, graduated with advanced degrees or joined the workforce, and built lives; uprooting them from their lives and communities in the United States, stripping them of legal work authorization, and subjecting them to the threat of deportation harms not only DREAMers and their loved ones, including U.S. citizen children and other family members.

The IACHR considers that the lack of available legal avenues to regularize DACA recipients’ status poses a serious threat to the principle of family unity, and that the termination of DACA protections will jeopardize their ability in practice to ensure equal access to economic and social rights—including education, labor protections, and healthcare—and legal guarantees, such as access to the courts. For example, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently highlighted in a statement on the termination of DACA that crime reports from immigrant communities have fallen sharply this year, due to fear that contact with police will lead to deportation. When migrants are unable to access legal status, they are more easily excluded from accessing human rights and left more vulnerable to abuses of those rights. Furthermore, it is evident that the possible deportation of DACA recipients—particularly to countries currently facing refugee crises could seriously breach the U.S. international human rights obligations, including rights to life, personal integrity, best interests of the child, non-discrimination, juridical personality, private and family life, due process, judicial protection, and non-refoulement, among others.

The Commission observes that the United States has made several important immigration policy changes since the introduction of three Executive Orders on migration and refugee policy in January of this year, including the end of the Central American Minors (CAM) parole program, announced on August 16. On September 14, it was further reported that the Department of State plans to end the CAM Refugee program, which allows Central American children with family members with legal status in the United States to apply for refugee status inside their home countries, thus avoiding an extremely dangerous trip north to seek asylum at the US’ southern border. The Commission has further noted with concern reports of refusals by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to receive asylum-seekers at US Ports of Entry as required by international law; the broadening of deportation priorities to include a much larger number of migrants in an irregular situation; and the policy to build a contiguous physical wall along the US’ Southern border, among others. These changes in the aggregate contribute to a panorama of increasing insecurity for migrants and refugees and a shrinking number of legal options to preserve their families and their physical safety. History shows that as legal avenues to receive the protection close, migrants and refugees will be forced to find more dangerous routes to enter the country.

Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, the IACHR's Country Rapporteur for the United States, highlighted the historic dimension of these policy shifts: “The Administration’s clear policy of closing its doors to migrants and refugees, and deporting long-time residents of the US could generate serious threats to the lives, safety, and life plans of those deported.”

Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, stated: “The Commission calls on the United States to reverse its policy of attempting to close its doors to migrants and refugees. Of course, this is not possible to do overnight; in the meantime, the United States should reinstate DACA and similar programs in order to provide legal protection to migrants and return stability to the lives of millions of people.”

The IACHR salutes the ongoing reported efforts of Congress to reach an agreement with the President to safeguard DREAMers’ presence in the country and create a path to regularizing their migration status. In this sense, the Inter-American Commission expresses concern for the announcement by the White House on October 8, 2017, that it would accept an agreement to regularize the status of DACA beneficiaries only in exchange for approval of a series of measures to increase border enforcement, limit access to asylum, and strengthen the externalization of border control. The IACHR reiterates that any agreement to regularize the status of DACA beneficiaries must be in accordance with norms and standards of human rights law.

The Commission calls on the United States to reinstate DACA, and to create a path to regularize the migration status of migrants who have benefitted from these policies as well as other groups that should be included. Any such enacted measures should take into consideration factors such as the circumstances under which the migrant entered the United States, the duration of his or her presence in the country, ties to family and community in the country, and contributions to society. In the framework of this executive action, and in light of this year’s new immigration enforcement priorities, the Commission also calls on the United States to ensure that the protection needs of every person—without exception—are analyzed in an individual manner by properly-trained authorities upon arrival or apprehension. The IACHR affirms its interest in working with the government of the United States in the quest for solutions that ensure full observance of the human rights of migrants and refugees.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and defense of human rights in the region, and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 155/17