On Monday, September 5, President Trump ordered an end to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, and called on Congress to pass a replacement before he begins phasing out the program’s protections in its remaining six months.
Of all the heinous acts Trump has committed since ascending to the presidency, this decision is particularly cruel and nonsensical. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions employed their usual anti-immigrant rhetoric, claiming that those benefitting from DACA are law-breakers who are stealing American jobs and driving down wages. Such hateful language is especially incorrect and reprehensible in this case.
In reality, DACA protects almost 800,000 children and young people who immigrated to the United States with their parents, and have grown up in this country and called it home for their entire lives. If the protections of DACA are stripped away, these hundreds of thousands of Americans will be eligible for deportation, and will be sent back to a country they never knew.
Many of us who’ve never had to worry about deportation might wonder, what is DACA exactly? The program was instituted in 2012 by the Obama administration and intended to reprieve young people from the threat of deportation, allowing them to receive driver’s licenses, working papers and attend school.
When the program began, all applicants had to prove they were less than thirty-one years of age and had come to the United States before the age of sixteen. All those who sign up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. They are required to attend high school or college, or serve in the military. All those who benefit from DACA must reapply every two years for continued protection. Most hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, but some come from Asian countries such as South Korea and the Philippines. A vast majority of them live in states like New York, California, Illinois, Florida and Texas.
A heartless follow-up question might be: Why help these people at all? Well, those protected by the program came to the United States as minors with their parents and guardians, and had little choice in the matter. They’ve been brought up in this country for a majority of their lives and have lived here as Americans for at least ten years now.
Conservative legislators opposed DACA at the time of its creation. It was instituted by executive action under the Obama administration after a legislative solution to the issue could not be reached. However, the program has enjoyed popularity amongst actual Americans. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2012 reported that amongst those polled 63 percent were in support of DACA. A more recent survey found that as many as two-thirds of Americans want those who’ve benefited from DACA to be able to remain in the United States.
So why are Trump and Sessions trying to deport 800,000 young Americans? A short and very correct answer is that they’re both hatefully racist. The announcement is an unsurprising but wretched extension of the rhetoric Trump has used since he promised to keep the “rapists” and “bad hombres” out with a gigantic border wall throughout his campaign. Trump’s platform, and his administration, is built on xenophobia, an irrational fear of people from other countries, and is filled with detached and cruel men like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who believe that the only real America is white America.
The long answer is even more infuriating when you examine just how little the president understands his own decision. After Trump took office, he began to backpedal on some of his rhetoric, including his promise to rescind the Obama administration’s executive actions. He’s been on record as stating that making a decision about the fate of those protected by DACA was “very difficult” for him, but “we’re going to show a lot of heart.” Just one week before rescinding the program, he told the press that his administration loved DACA recipients.
Despite his expressed sentiments, Trump has falsely maintained that the program resulted in a mass surge of immigrants coming from Central America, who then joined and created violent gangs in the United States. In reality, a majority of those benefitting from DACA came to the country to escape gang violence. The president’s decision a week later was a result of his desire to follow through on his campaign’s promise of “law and order.”
He was also under pressure from ten Republican attorney generals who, in June, drafted a letter to Sessions threatening to take legal action against DACA if Trump didn’t take action by September 5. Lo and behold, Trump made his decision right on the deadline, but is allowing the program to exist for another six months as an attempted compassionate gesture.
The president is hoping that Congress will be able to draft a better version of the program before it’s fully rescinded, but what that actually means is predictably and frustratingly vague. The White House promises to find a solution to DACA, but how do you “fix” a program that helps undocumented immigrant children become citizens if you’re an administration that wants to deport all undocumented immigrants? An anonymous source from within the White House reported that it was likely Trump did not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take before rescinding DACA and, if made to actually understand the implications of it, would change his mind. So our moronic, racist and easily manipulated president has basically just screwed over hundreds of thousands of people for no reason.
What’s going to happen now? DACA recipients whose legal status expires before March 5 will be able to renew their two-year deferral so long as they do so before October 5. Immigration officials stated that they do not intend to actively target the young immigrants for deportation, but without the protections given by DACA, these people will not be able to work legally, which will make them extremely vulnerable to deportation, regardless of the promises of officials. Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that Trump would support congressional legislation to fix DACA, so long as it was part of a larger and more comprehensive plan to strengthen and close off the border, protect American jobs and enhance enforcement. Such a statement is extremely worrying.
No one should be tricked into thinking that the Trump administration is going to pass anything resembling compassionate immigration legislation, nor should Americans accept the kind of rhetoric that justifies such xenophobic measures. To put it bluntly, the deportation of 800,000 innocent young Americans would be rightly labeled a crime against humanity. Young immigrants protected by DACA are not stealing from, threatening or cheating the American people; they are American people. Anyone who doesn’t believe they deserve to be in this country should remember that we are a country founded by illegal immigrants fleeing conflict in their own countries, and by turning away those who have come to us for similar reasons, in the hopes of building a better life and pursuing happiness, we will once again fail the highest principles of our nation.
Call your state representatives and tell them to oppose Trump’s decision to rescind DACA. You can find out who they are by clicking here. This country is as much their home as it is ours. Don’t let Trump take their lives away.