The Debate on DACA

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A major focus of President Trump’s platform has been immigration. While undocumented migrants with criminal records were his focus, a group known as “Dreamers” have come into the spotlight. Now, the debate rages about the fate of hundreds of thousands of young people.

History of DACA

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) came to be via the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act (DREAM act) in 2001. 1 Since then the policy has given benefits to over 800,000 undocumented migrants who came to America as children. 2 The American Immigration Council estimates that up to 1.8 million people could meet the requirements of DACA. 3

Dreamers are under the age of 31 and came to America before their 16th birthday. They also hold or are planning to complete their high school education and have no record of certain crimes, including felonies and DUIs. 4

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The program protects young people brought to America from deportation and allows them to have a work permit. 4 President Obama introduced the program, saying that children may not even be aware they are undocumented and would face living in a foreign country with an unknown language if deported. 5 “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” Obama said. 5

Effects of DACA

By having formal protection from deportation, DACA allows young people to obtain driver’s licenses, go to college, and get jobs. 6 The removal of fear of deportation offers them a path to citizenship and an opportunity to take part in American society.

The Center for American Progress has found that beneficiaries can increase their own personal wealth and improve the American economy. 7 Going to college, obtaining legal jobs, and not fearing deportation have many benefits. They also buy cars, homes and start businesses. Dreamers also tend to make 42% higher hourly wages. 7

The policy also benefits families. It protects children from leaving their only home and allows students to finish their education and move into their careers.

DACA in the News

Following promises made on the campaign trail, President Trump has DACA in his sights for reform.

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Reports say Attorney General Jeff Sessions feels it falls upon Congress to write immigration law, not the Executive branch. 2 Throughout its history, bills and policies concerning Dreamers both received support and split the aisle. Currently, lawmakers from both parties support continuing DACA in some form.

“I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. 8 Ryan says that Congress plans on using legislation to continue the program. The House Speaker has a history of immigration reform. Stating that President Obama did not have the “authority” to create DACA, he adds “…there are people who are in limbo. These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home.” 8 House Speaker Ryan stresses that a legislative solution is best.

Future of DACA

As a program that was designed to be temporary, most accept that something needs to change. Supporters feel that the protections should stay permanent instead of needing constant renewal. Dissenters feel that it is an unconstitutional program that needs to end. Moderates feel that the policy should continue but it needs to be changed to keep it sustainable.

On Tuesday September 5th 2017, President Trump announced the end of the DACA program, but gave Congress six months to find a suitable replacement to the program, without scrapping it completely. President Trump, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions engaged in anti-immigrant rationale by stating that the program hurt American-born citizens by taking their jobs and decreasing wages. 9

Opinions on DACA

DACA’s announcement was met with mostly negative reactions by many different personalities. The founder of FaceBook Mark Zuckerberg said “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.”

Former President Barack Obama also blasted Trump by calling the resignation of DACA “cruel” and “self-defeating”. “To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong.”

Another important voice in the world of politics who chimed in was former Vice President Joe Biden. On Tuesday he took on Twitter to say “Brought by parents, these children had no choice in coming here. Now they’ll be sent to countries they’ve never known. Cruel. Not America.”

Others were not so compassionate when it came to DACA. One such person was Iowa Republican Steve King, a hardliner who greatly supported Trump’s decision. He stated that young immigrants who illegally came to the US can “live in the shadows”. He continued by stating “They continue to live the objective that they sought to achieve when they illegally entered America.” He told reporters.

Final thoughts

Ending DACA might turn into a huge mistake in the future. Removing 800,000 people already integrated into American society would lead to many economic and social problems causing long-term damage to the country. This move by Trump is most certain to hurt his career down the road. Divided democrats are most likely to find common ground against Trump, and unite against him. Many republicans still won’t rally behind Trump. Only time will tell what consequences it’ll have for Trump and the rest of the country. 10

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