DACA Hangs By A Thread As President Trump Threatens To End Obama Era Immigration Policy

One of President Barack Obama’s most well-known immigration policies is hanging by a thread. The New York Times reports that President Trump is “seriously considering” rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Rumors have been circulating as the September 5th deadline approaches, which was given to President Trump by attorney generals from 10 states, who promised to file a lawsuit against the president if he doesn’t end the “unconstitutional program.” This unprecedented program has provided temporary relief from deportation to nearly 800,000 Dreamers in the U.S. The program grants qualifying recipients a social security number, a two year work permit, and a driver’s license, should they meet certain guidelines, including having a clean criminal record, obtained a U.S. high school diploma or GED equivalent, and have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 16, 2007. President Obama’s executive order was signed on June 15, 2012.

However, prior to the DACA, undocumented youth faced many barriers, such as accessing higher education and obtaining higher wages. As such, with the fate of DACA on the line, DACA recipients are in limbo as their lives could be changed by the stroke of a pen, as they could have their work permits revoked, or worse, face deportation.

However, there is certainly bipartisan support for DACA as House Speaker Paul Ryan recently defended DACA, stating that “[he] believe[s] this is something that Congress has to fix.” Moreover, on July 20, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois reintroduced the ambitious DREAM Act on the floor, which would create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Despite calls from Congress, President Trump’s unpredictability has created an ominous feeling among Dreamers. For instance, last week, President Trump stated that ending DACA is “a decision that’s very, very hard to make” and that “What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan… but our country and political forces are not ready yet.”

As such, due to the uncertainty surrounding DACA, Dreamers and their allies have taken action by protesting, calling their representatives, and holding press conferences. For example, on August 28, 2017, Senator Kamala Harris from California held a press conference at the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center, a safe haven for undocumented young people that advocates for immigrant rights and increasing support for the immigrant population through community action. At the conference where she hosted a roundtable with dreamers, Senator Harris defended DACA stating that “If the vast majority of people who are expressing opinions about this issue had the opportunity to meet our Dreamers, they would understand it’s just the right thing to do.”

Furthermore, California is home to more than 222,795 DACA recipients, one of the highest in the nation, followed by Texas (124,300), and Illinois (42,376), according to the Pew Research Center. Thus, the devastating effects of ending DACA on these young, hopeful immigrants would not only be detrimental to their futures, but for the economy as well, as immigrants have made massive contributions to the U.S. economy. For instance, a FWD.us study found that 72% of the top 25 fortune 500 companies, the largest companies in the United States, have an employee who is a DACA recipient. Further, work permits are also subject to revocation and a study by the Center for American Progress estimates that ending the DACA program would cost the U.S. $433 billion in GDP over the next 10 years.

Since taking office, the prevalence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids have increased and ICE’s aggressive and manipulative tactics have gone unpunished. It has become more clear that there is a broken immigration system in the U.S. that all too often breaks families apart and leaves Dreamers behind. For example, throughout the years, there have been incremental changes towards expanding immigrant rights and increasing immigrant justice in the U.S. With that said, ending the DACA program would have grave repercussions for the U.S. economy and the 800,000 immigrants whose livelihoods depend on DACA.

Luisa Tembo