New Bill to Protect DREAMers’ Private Data

Democratic Representatives introduced a bill on April 1 that would protect the private data of DREAMers from being used for deportation purposes. The Protect DREAMers Confidentiality Act of 2019 would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from accessing contact information including addresses and phone numbers used on applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The DACA program has enabled undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors to work and live without fear of deportation since 2012. After President Donald Trump ended DACA in September 2017, its recipients were effectively stripped of protections. While multiple judicial rulings have forced Trump to reinstate DACA, the program remains tenuous as do the lives of DREAMers. “It’s clear that [DHS] Secretary Nielsen can’t be trusted to protect DREAMers’ personal information. These young people are teachers, doctors, and small business owners — valuable members of our communities who pose no national security threat to our nation,” Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.), who co-sponsored the bill with Texas Representative Veronica Escobar, said in a statement. “We should be affording them the same protections for their personal data as we would for any American citizen.”

Potential DACA beneficiaries must fill out an application with up-to-date personal information (including current and past addresses, phone numbers, fingerprints, and height and weight), pass a background check, and pay a fee. “The DACA application itself is an admission that the beneficiary is in the country illegally, and doubts have been raised since the program's inception as to whether the data collected by the government can be used against applicants,” The Hill reported.

Access to this personal data continues to be the subject of debate. In 2017, Wired noted, “because DACA was merely a policy, not a law, even the framers of this process knew full well that that promise to Dreamers was not binding.” The US government has a history of using personal information for political means. In 1943, the Census Bureau provided the Secret Service with the names, addresses, ages, and other personal information of Japanese Americans in the Washington, DC area — presumably for easier round-up and imprisonment in internment camps throughout the country during WWII.

If signed into law, the bill would prevent confidential information submitted in requests for the DACA program from being disclosed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for any purpose other than implementing the DACA program. The information would remain confidential unless there are national security concerns, fraud, or the investigation of non-immigration related felonies, The Hill continued.

The Protect DREAMer Confidentiality Act of 2019 was first introduced in January by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and is co-sponsored by a host of Democrat Representatives from throughout the country.

About the Author

Jessica Lipsky is the content editor for The North Star. Her work as an editor and reporter has appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Vice, Billboard, Remezcla, Timeline and LA Weekly, among others. She regularly pens authoritative features on subculture, broke several music industry-focused #MeToo stories, and also writes on the business of music.