Monday, December 16, 2019
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DACA deadline looms for Dreamers

Bryan, a sophomore at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA is unfair, “because Dreamers have nothing to be blamed for” and “didn’t do anything” wrong, Julie Heng, a staff writer for the student newspaper at the school, quotes him as saying.

Writing in The Emery, she also quotes the principal as saying he finds it wrong that President Donald Trump suddenly repealed protections given to immigrants who came to the US illegally as children under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. “It’s not OK [for DACA recipients] to be sent back to their country,” he said.

The DACA program allows those immigrants to remain in the country, as long as they comply with certain provisions, such as paying a fee, registering for a renewal of their DACA status every two years, passing a criminal background check, and a few other conditions set forth in Mr Obama’s original order.

But as of early March, those two-year protections will start to expire—about 1,400 each workday—and at any point after that, those immigrants, many of them students in our schools like Bryan, could be deported. Only Congress or the president can stop it.

So in announcing the end of DACA on Septemeber 5, Mr Trump, through Attorney General Jeff Sessions, did give Congress time to act, but legislation on immigration reform has a rocky road ahead of it.

One of the leaders of the push to reform immigration and possibly consider moving toward granting legal residency status to DACA recipients is Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and the current minority whip, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the US Senate.

Mr Durbin addressed the Senate earlier this week in support of immigration reform:

The nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reports that DACA-eligible individuals contribute an estimated $2 billion a year in State and local taxes. The Cato Institute, a conservative operation, estimates that ending DACA and deporting DACA recipients will cost $60 billion and result in a $280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next 10 years.

Poll after poll shows overwhelming bipartisan support for these Dreamers. Even FOX News—no liberal media outlet—recently found that 79 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, including 63 percent of those who voted for President Trump. Sixty-three percent, or almost two out of three Trump supporters, supports a legal status for Dreamers.

The answer is clear. Congress needs to pass the Dream Act, and we need to do it before we leave Washington, DC, for the holidays.

Mr Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, introduced the latest version of the Dream Act in the Senate. Dreamers, who have already invested years of their lives in America, deserve something better than being kicked out of the country. They’re counting on us, and time is running out.

Dreamers came to this country as children and, in almost every case, don’t know any other country as their home except the US. As Mr Durbin said on the Senate floor, they grew up observing American holidays, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and pledging allegiance to the American flag. Along with Senator Dick Lugar, an Indiana Republican, Mr Durbin sent a letter to the president seven years ago, asking him to create a program that looked a lot like DACA, which now serves more than 850,000 people, though many of them aren’t children anymore.

Some of the adults are teachers, so if a teacher here under the protection of DACA loses that protection one day after March 5, 2018, her students could potentially be abandoned. The fact that DACA recipients have jobs in America cuts both ways when it comes to supporting legislation: Mr Trump wants actual Americans to have more jobs, but others argue DACA recipients who came here as innocent children are about as American as anybody else.

Mr Durbin recounted a story about a Korean immigrant who attended high school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In high school, Ha Eun Lee was a member of the NHS, received the Principal’s Academic Achievement Award, and was an Oakland Activities Association scholar athlete. She was a member of the track and field team during all four years of high school, and now she’s a senior at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

There are, of course, stories to be told of DACA recipients and illegal immigrants who have committed crimes here, and I have reported those stories as well. But first of all, Americans commit crimes, too. And second, Bryan and Ha Eun are far more representative of the kinds of people that receive the protection of DACA.

And in just a few short months, the exquisitely crafted bipartisan solution known as DACA that keeps people like Bryan and Ha Eun contributing to American society and American life is set to go up in smoke. Unless Congress acts.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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