Despite the program’s strong and wide bi-partisan support, the Trump administration announced today its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides work authorization and temporary protection from deportation to roughly 800,000 people who were brought to the United States as children. This decision is an injustice to these talented young people and a disservice to our nation.
As the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) has found, DACA recipients are deeply embedded in US society. Eighty-nine percent of them are employed. Eighty-five percent have lived in the United States for 10 years or longer, and nearly one in five have lived here 20 years or longer. More than ninety percent are fluent or near fluent in English. Ninety-three percent have graduated from high school. By rescinding DACA, the Trump administration will deprive our nation of their talent, energy, and skills. It seeks to remove many future US leaders and some of the nation’s brightest current leaders as well.
This wrong-headed decision – which cedes to a small number of state attorneys general the well-established constitutional authority of the president to administer US immigration laws – has dimmed a light of hope for these young people, who want only to contribute and to participate fully in their country. If Congress does not act to protect them, they will be faced with return to nations they do not know and will be forced to start their lives over, with little or nothing to show for their hard work, sacrifice and myriad contributions to the United States. Instead of providing them with hope and opportunity consistent with core US values, the Trump administration has chosen to betray its promise to address their situation in a positive way, and left them with broken dreams.
The DACA program – which has strongly benefitted US families and communities – reflects the moral intuition that innocent persons should not be punished and the practical recognition that this group should not be an immigration enforcement priority. The program’s termination represents proof positive that the Trump administration is pursuing a mass deportation policy, without concern for its moral, human, or social consequences. The administration also seems intent on exposing ever larger populations of immigrants – both undocumented and legally present persons – to deportation, belying the claim that it supports legal immigration and values the contributions of immigrants to the nation.
Adding insult to injury were Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ demonstrably false claims and half-truths in his remarks today on rescinding the program, including the following:
- It upholds the “rule of law” to punish blameless persons.
- The DACA program caused the flight to the United States and many other nations, of large numbers of children from the violence-plagued Northern Triangle states of Central America.
- DACA recipients have deprived hundreds of thousands of US citizens of jobs and their removal will create jobs for citizens and promote the US economy.
- Revocation of this program, which benefits a group of integrated, long-term US residents, would contribute to immigrant integration.
- DACA contributes to an open border policy and does not serve the nation’s interest.
Sessions also repeatedly invoked the phrase “illegal aliens” to describe legally present young persons who are American in everything but status.
President Trump should strongly support and Congress should act swiftly to pass the bi-partisan DREAM Act which was recently introduced in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives. As a nation founded and built by immigrants, the United States must create a path to citizenship for this highly deserving group of young Americans.