President Donald Trump’s administration has come under harsh criticism after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced its decision to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program this past Tuesday.
The program, which was created after intense pressure from advocates, protects immigrants who arrived in the country as undocumented children from deportation. It grants a two-year reprieve that can be extended and has helped approximately 800,000 young people, referred to as Dreamers, obtain social security numbers, work permits, and driving licences. The DACA beneficiaries were all brought to the U.S. before age 16, have no criminal record, and were at least 15 when applying.
Barack Obama, the former U.S. president who created DACA in 2012 through an executive order, called the action “cruel” and a “political decision.” In a post on Facebook, he said that “Ultimately this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated.”
In the meantime, young immigrants already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. However, if their permits expire before March 5, 2018, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by October 5. However, if they miss the October deadline or their permits expire beyond that March date, they will not be able to renew and could be deported upon expiration. Furthermore, many DACA beneficiaries worry that they will be forced to take lower-wage, under-the-table jobs and will be unable to pay for college or assist their families financially. Others worry that upon expiration of permits, families will be forced to split apart as beneficiaries, who did not make the choice to come to America, are deported back to countries that may not be entirely safe and that they barely, if at all, remember.
Moreover, Lorella Praeli, Director of Immigration Policy at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said that President Trump’s decision “just threw the lives and futures of 800,000 Dreamers and their families, including my own, into fearful disarray, and injected chaos and uncertainty into thousands of workplaces and communities across America.”
With Trump’s latest move, responsibility for the future of Dreamers falls to his fellow Republicans, who now control both houses of Congress. Congress members have only six months left before DACA officially ends to pass legislation helping DACA beneficiaries. However, Congress has been unable to pass any major legislation, and the members have been bitterly divided over immigration in the past. As such, this only leaves the future of DACA beneficiaries even more uncertain as a political solution has not been yet proposed.
In the interim, various protests have been lead both in major cities across the country, as well as online, where “Dreamers” was amongst the top Twitter hashtags in the U.S., with many expressing their support for DACA beneficiaries. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg said in a post, “It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.”
Trump’s move also brought about criticism from some within his own party, however, most seem to support it. Trump’s allies have called Obama’s creation of the DACA program by executive order “unconstitutional” and have chosen to focus on that rather than the beneficiaries and program itself.
With that said, whether DACA is unconstitutional or not does not change the fact that ending the program is a cruel decision, one that will put the lives of 800,000 into disarray, leaving them without a place in America, and threatening to tear families apart. Forcing young people, who did not make the choice to migrate to America, back to countries that may not be entirely safe and that they barely, if at all remember, is undoubtedly a human rights violation. As such, Congress needs to act quickly to come up with a political solution and pass legislation to protect the “Dreamers” before it is too late. Otherwise, they will be imperilling the futures of 800,000 people who have contributed through their lifetimes to America, the place they call home.
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