News: DACA updates, methane monitoring, angry politicians

WASHINGTON SEPTEMBER 5: A DACA supporter holds a sign at a rally in Washington DC on September 5, 2017, the day on which President Trump announced that he would end the DACA program

DACA on the brink, again

Once again, the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is in jeopardy. 

In 2017, the Trump administration terminated the program, although court rulings kept the program alive for those who had current and previous DACA status. When President Biden took office in 2021, he reinstated the program, and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) began processing first-time applicants again. However, on Friday, July 16, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas ruled the program illegal, barring the federal government from approving any new applicants. 

“I am disappointed by yesterday’s ruling and its impact on families across the country, but it will not derail our efforts to protect Dreamers,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Saturday. “The Biden-Harris Administration — and this country — remain as committed as ever to ensuring that Dreamers are protected from the threat of deportation and are allowed to continue to contribute to this country that is their home.”

While there are about 615,000 active DACA recipients according to USCIS data, the Migration Policy Institute estimates an additional 1.3 million would be immediately eligible under the program’s original 2012 rules. In Colorado, there are roughly 14,000 current DACA holders, while another 26,000 could be immediately eligible. The majority of DACA recipients and eligible population are from Mexico. According to USCIS, there are approximately 55,000 pending initial DACA applications as of March 31, 2021, prompting the House Judiciary Committee, including Boulder Congressman Joe Neguse, to ask Secretary Mayorkas the reason for the backlog and processing delays. 

Biden’s Department of Justice has said it will appeal Judge Hanen’s ruling. Meanwhile, DHS has said it intends to issue a proposed rule to protect DACA, and there are widespread calls for Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers — seen by many as a more permanent solution. 

“DACA is an essential part of U.S. immigration law. It is based on long-standing principles of humane discretion in enforcement, and it is well within the President’s authority to make sure that immigration laws are administered even-handedly,” said UCLA Law Professor Hiroshi Motomura, who is also on the board of the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN). “It’s imperative that the Biden administration take all steps to preserve and strengthen DACA, and even more importantly, that Congress act to give DACA recipients a clear path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship.”  

Flyover methane monitoring underway

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recently began aerial surveys of oil and gas operations in an attempt to better monitor methane and other emissions from major sites in Boulder, Weld and Larimer Counties. Last week’s flight was a first for the state, funded by a settlement between the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee (COGCC) and Kerr McGee in relation to the 2017 Firestone gas explosion that killed two people. It was the first of many flights planned for 2021 as CDPHE is working with a variety of partners including the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and Scientific Aviation, a private company based in Boulder, among others. The aerial survey work will be paired with ground monitoring and inspections to verify data, as well as monitor emissions at smaller operations. 

“We are committed to deploying advanced technology and the most capable tools to get a clear picture of methane and other emissions in the state,” said Shaun McGrath, director of environmental health and protection at CDPHE. “The resulting data will inform how we approach regulating oil and gas operations and other emitting sites in Colorado.” 

Angry politicians? Angry voters. 

New research out of CU Boulder suggests that when politicians employ angry rhetoric, citizens in turn start to mirror those angry emotions. It may even drive certain people — those that may have otherwise tuned out politics — to vote. 

“Anger is a very strong, short-term emotion that motivates people into action,” said researcher Casey Stapleton, who recently earned his Ph.D. in political science at CU Boulder, in a press release. “But there can be these much more negative implications in the long term. There’s always the potential that anger can turn into rage and violence.”

Surveying 1,400 people across the country and political spectrum, Stapleton, along with research partner Ryan Dawkins at the U.S. Air Force Academy, wrote a series of fake news stories about a faux political debate on immigration policy between two candidates for an open Congressional seat in Minnesota. The results were published in July’s Political Research Quarterly. The study showed that people are more motivated by the emotions of their fellow partisans more than those with opposing views; (Democrats grew angrier as Democratic candidates did, but not if Republicans showed anger.) Additionally, the people most susceptible to shifting emotions based on rhetoric were more moderate voters — not the die-hards on either side of the aisle. 

“The really far left and right are already so amped up,” Stapleton said. “But these weakly-aligned partisans who are notoriously less likely to participate in elections were more susceptible to changing their emotions.”

In previous work, however, Stapleton’s research has shown that overall, optimistic people are much more likely to be politically active than pessimists.