By: Elizabeth Klein
Last Tuesday, the Trump Administration declared that they will be repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The act was passed by the Obama Administration with the intent of protecting the near 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. Under DACA, immigrants applied for renewable two-year periods of amnesty as long as they didn’t have a criminal record and arrived before the age of 16. Those eligible for DACA, known by supporters as “Dreamers,” submit substantial amounts of data when registering, such as their full name, address, social security number, and immigration status. The Obama Administration encouraged undocumented immigrants to request DACA protections under the premise that their applications would not be used against them for deportation. However, the repeal of DACA may mean this information will be used to further the Trump Administration’s nativistic agenda. While Trump said that the Department of Homeland Security will not actively seek out Dreamers for deportation, applicants to DACA have virtually no protections now that the act is invalid. If the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests the personal information of Dreamers, they are subject to whatever consequences follow.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a briefing to announce DACA’s revocation. “This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens,” Sessions stated. “Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism.”
However, not everyone feels the same way about DACA. “How America treats Dreamers is a moral test that goes beyond party labels and cuts to the questions of who we are as a people and what we aspire to be as a country,” commented Frank Sharry, the Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund. “Dreamers are Americans. They grew up in this country, they’ve graduated from schools and have gone to work in America. Their dreams are made in America. Now their futures are under threat.”
Even some politicians who support immigration reform think that DACA’s repeal takes security concerns too far. House Speaker Paul Ryan believes that cancelling the policy outright is a bad move. While he disagrees with how former President Barack Obama originally implemented DACA, Ryan understands the implications which surround it. “There are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home.” Utah Senator Orrin Hatch shares similar sentiments. “[We] need a workable, permanent solution for individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own and who have built their lives here.”
In contrast, many of DACA’s critics feel that Trump’s decision is an important step in strengthening national security. “President Obama wrongly believed he had the authority to rewrite our immigration law. Today’s action by President Trump corrects that fundamental mistake,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “This Congress will continue working on securing our border and ensuring a lawful system of immigration that works.” Robert Verbruggen, an editor at National Review, worries that keeping DACA in place would threaten the future of immigration reform. “Even if the final bill applies only to illegal immigrants who are already here, it will send the message that you can eventually get your kids legal status if you bring them here illegally.”
Donald Trump has allowed a six-month delay in DACA’s rescindment. This decision puts pressure on Congress to draft an alternative act before March 5, the date DACA protections are set to expire. Whether Congress will pass a bill that helps or hurts the Dreamers is unknown. For now, it seems that the most important thing on the legislative to-do list is getting Congress to agree on a decision.