DACA: America’s Broken Promise to Immigrant Youth | English Columnist Minjoo Lee
On September 5th 2017, attorney general Jeff Sessions formally announced the repeal of DACA, the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program. The argument presented by the attorney general was that DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.” President Trump issued a statement saying “I do not favor punishing children… but we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws,” and that he would put the hardworking citizens of America first. The press secretary states that it was a decision conclusively made as a comprehensive part of the administration’s attempt to end illegal immigration, prevent visa overstays and create a “merit based” system of immigration.
What? The DACA program was created in 2012 by the Obama Administration which allowed minors who entered or the remained in the country illegally to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation, permission to work, study and obtain a driver’s license. DACA applicants had to be younger than 31 and needed proof that they had lived in the United States since June 15, 2007 and needed a clean criminal record. The program was created by the Obama administration because they were unable to find a legislative remedy to protect the minors who were brought into the country through no fault of their own. Although this program did not provide lawful immigration status to these people, it granted a deferral from possibly being removed from the U.S. Up to 800,000 immigrants were recipients of the DACA program, the top countries of origin being Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru and Brazil. These DREAMers, a name derived from the DREAM Act, which offered legal status in return for attending college or joining the military, mostly reside in states like California, Texas, Illinois and New York.
Why? This seemingly positively motivated program has been shut down by the new administration and has raised many questions as to the reasons behind such a decision. The first argument made by the administration is that the program is unconstitutional for it was former president Barack Obama’s executive decision to move forward with this program. The second argument is that the program provides windows for illegal immigration, which is something President Trump promised to end during his election campaign.
Who will be affected? How? Now that the DACA program has ended, the attention turns to how this decision will affect America, specifically the economic effects the country is soon to face. Although it is difficult to predict the precise economic effect of pushing so many people out of their jobs and or out of their country, both right-wing and left-wing institutions indicate that ending DACA could reduce the size of the U.S. economy by anywhere from $280 billion to $430 billion over the next decade.
As a consequence, the Department of Homeland Security will phase out the DACA over a span of six months. For DREAMers whose permits have been renewed will be allowed to stay in the country until their visa expires and they have the option to renew them. In addition to this population, there are people who are in a limbo state. There should be a legislative solution as to how the U.S. will take care of these children who were brought here by their parents and know no other country but the U.S.
As a response to such decisions, a federal judge in California temporarily put a hold on the end of DACA and directed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to resume processing applications for renewals. UC Berkeley and other UC school students as well as universities within the state are granted this immunity from such federal decisions and are provided a haven within the campus.
Although the issue of the end of DACA is a relatively outdated topic, I think as a member of an international community where so many of my friends are immigrants or children of immigrants and to some who were directly influenced by such decisions, that it is important to re-emphasize the issue and raise awareness regarding how much this decision can change our lives and those around us.