Commentary

Trump Dashed the DREAMs of a Generation

September 8, 2017

By Arturo Castañares/Publisher and CEO

This week, Donald Trump made a decision that was so cowardly that he had someone else announce it to the world instead of owning up to his himself.

Much to the surprise of no one, Trump decided to end the immigration policy known as DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, instituted by President Obama in 2012. Instead of announcing it himself, though, Trump had Attorney General Jeff Sessions make the declaration, and hid behind his Twitter account to send conflicting messages to those impacted by the decision.

The DACA program allowed undocumented immigrants who were brought into the US as minors to apply for work permits if they had graduated from school, were enrolled in school, or served in the military. DACA applicants could not have criminal records, and needed to have lived continuously in the US since 2007. These requirements limited new arrivals, criminals, and older undocumented immigrants from applying. DACA did not grant permanent legal status or a path to citizenship, but only protected applicants from deportation for two-year, renewable terms.

Over 822,000 people were approved after submitting their background information, fingerprints, and picture to the Department of Homeland Security. Although it was estimated that more than 1.7 million people were eligible, nearly a million decided not to turn themselves in for fear that the program would eventually be turned against them.

This week, their fears became a reality for those that did apply.

The DACA policy was enacted by President Obama through an executive order in June 2012 after years of failed attempts in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In 2001, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch introduced the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minor Act, which became known as the DREAM Act. That bill, along with several others since, were defeated when Republicans either voted against them, or lead filibusters to stall the legislation. Those minors that would have been eligible became known as DREAMers.

During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he would immediately end DACA if elected. Obviously, his base loved it.

But after the election, Trump seemed to cool on the idea, saying in January that DACA minors were in a “very tough situation” and that “we’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud”. By February, Trump was saying “we’re going to show great heart” and “deal with DACA with heart”.

Then came this week, when Sessions made the Administration’s decision to end DACA public. Sessions first said DACA was unconstitutional, as most Republicans have said since Obama enacted the policy in 2012. Sessions then said DACA would continue for six months to allow Congress to pass legislation to resolve the issue, and that DACA applications that expire within six months could be renewed for now.

Within hours of Sessions’ announcement, Trump tweeted, “Congress get ready to do your job – DACA!”, throwing the hot potato back to the very political environment that has failed to act on the issue for over 16 years. Later that same day, Trump tweeted that, if Congress can’t act, he will “revisit the issue!”

That’s right, Trump decided to end a program he thinks is unconstitutional, but left it in place for six months hoping that a completely polarized Congress will suddenly address it, but if it doesn’t act, then Trump will revisit the issue on his own, a move he has criticized as an unconstitutional overreach of executive power by his predecessor.

And to make things more political, Session also threw into his announcement that DACA was bad for American workers in that it allowed undocumented immigrants to steal their jobs and further lower wages. Sessions blamed DACA for denying “jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

In fact, a study by the renowned Cato Institute found that the country would lose an estimated $200 billion per year if DACA were ended, leading to an overall negative impact on the economy. The study suggested that DACA applicants have, in most cases, enhanced their education and job training and are more productive workers than they would have been without DACA. And those workers, now with legal work permits, are paying taxes, spending their income on goods, and contributing more to the economy.

If DACA is ended, the Cato report concluded, many of those workers would be driven into the underground economy, not paying taxes, earning and spending less, and lowering overall economic productivity.

Further, since the federal government has not engaged in mass deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants, it is expected that most DACA applicants would remain in the US after the program ended, putting us right back where we were before the program.

Trump’s action to end DACA was not based on sound immigration policy, valid economic data, or defensible legal grounds. His decision to throw the lives of nearly a million immigrants into uncertainty won’t help deal with much-needed comprehensive immigration reform. His decision did nothing to help move the country toward a more secure economic future.

Trump took the easy way out to appease his shrinking political base by engaging in more fear-mongering, further dividing people by scapegoating a certain population as the cause of the changing economic realities in our country.

Trump likes to blame Chinese exports, NAFTA, the Paris Accord, undocumented immigrants, liberals, and the “fake news” for Americans losing American jobs. It’s easier to blame others than to work to solve the root causes of the issues. World trade, cheaper labor abroad, and technology have done more to uproot our manufacturing jobs than any DACA workers ever could.

Blaming young people that were bought to this country as kids by their parents seeking a better life is fundamentally wrong. We should encourage these promising DREAMers to work harder, get ahead, and contribute their talents to the American experience. These kids have no home country to return to, and have become Americans in every sense except legally.

All our futures will be brighter if they are allowed to live out their dreams alongside us. We will be a better country for their efforts, and we will reap the benefits, both economically and socially, for generations to come.

DREAM on, DREAM until your DREAMs come true.

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