Deferred action isn't just for 'youths'

By Jon Feere on June 16, 2015

The Hill, June 16, 2015

President Obama's controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program turned three years old yesterday, a program with illegal alien beneficiaries that the media refers to as "young" or "youths" or, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) once put it: "kids."

But today, some DACA recipients are turning 34 years old.

Under the terms of the current version of DACA, an illegal alien must prove, among other things, that they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 to receive work permits, Social Security accounts and other benefits. Though it's an obvious point, constant media misinformation requires the following to be stated clearly: DACA beneficiaries include people in their mid-thirties, i.e. adults.

Advocates are happy that some have embraced the inaccurate description, however, because it makes the program appear narrowly tailored and beneficial to only sympathetic young children.

Although since the program's inception it has been inaccurate and misleading to refer to DACA as a program for youths, it is also important to remember that in November 2014, President Obama announced the complete elimination of age limits, making illegal aliens of any age eligible. This expansion is currently enjoined by the courts as a result of the ongoing multistate lawsuit against DACA. If the administration is successful in the courts, however, and begins giving DACA to senior citizens, the media would have another reason to never again refer to DACA as a program for young people.

The argument from those who use misleading descriptions can be summed up as: "But some of them are youths!" This is true; some DACA recipients are youths. But it's misleading to generally refer to DACA as a program for youths simply because some fit that description. Look at it another way: Some DACA recipients are convicted criminals (e.g., 14 were rearrested in March). Would it be appropriate to refer to DACA as a program "for convicted criminals"?

In fact, the Obama administration has not only granted DACA status to a number of problematic people — from a statutory rapist to an alleged pedophile to an alleged mass murderer — the program terms actually allow beneficiaries to have a significant criminal history. The program notes that applicants cannot have a conviction for a "felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors," meaning that an illegal alien with two misdemeanors is welcomed to apply. Misdemeanors are crimes that may result in fines, probation and imprisonment under a year and include things like petty theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, public intoxication, fleeing from an officer, disorderly conduct, vandalism, indecent exposure, prostitution and trespassing. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also notes that a "minor traffic offense, such as driving without a license" will not be considered a misdemeanor even though it might be under state law. Other driving misdemeanors under state law that will likely be given a pass include failure to stop at the scene of an accident, driving without insurance and reckless driving.

But that's only half the story: The timing of the misdemeanors is significant and multiple misdemeanors may only count as one strike against the applicant. As USCIS explains in its DACA guidelines, an applicant is ineligible if he has three or more misdemeanors "not occurring on the same date and not arising out of the same act, omission, or scheme of misconduct." An illegal alien who commits a handful of misdemeanors during one incident will see those crimes counted as "one misdemeanor" for purposes of DACA. The alien could commit an additional series of misdemeanors at a later date and, provided they all occurred during one incident, they would only count as a second misdemeanor.

The point is: If the media want to keep calling DACA "a program for youths," then it might as well start calling it "a program for criminals."

I'd simply prefer the media start accurately reporting how DACA actually operates.

And if the media are interested in becoming more accurate, please understand that not all DACA recipients are students in high school or college. In fact, DACA also benefits unemployed dropouts. Furthermore, DACA is not just for people "brought" to the United States: People who knowingly and willingly enter on their own volition — fully knowing that they are violating the law — are eligible for the program.

Journalists have a duty to report accurately and should not embrace language crafted by activists.