The change in immigration policy the Trump administration announced Tuesday jeopardizes the legal status of nearly 800,000 people brought to this country illegally as children. These so-called Dreamers risk losing their ability to work, study, pay taxes, serve in our military and live without the fear of being deported.
All for no reason other than the most debased partisan politics.
President Donald Trump, who said, “I have a great heart for these folks we’re talking about,” had Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce the revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. But Trump also said, “Our first and highest priority in advancing immigration reform must be to improve jobs, wages and security for American workers and their families.”
Unfounded claims on ending DACA
There will be no sudden increase in jobs for Americans if DACA ends. Those in the program are consumers as well as workers, and laying off hundreds of thousands of people is a recipe for slowing the economy, not for increasing employment. There will be no reduction in crime, because criminals can’t get DACA waivers. There won’t even be a reduction in the number of Dreamers because, most cynically, the Trump administration probably will not even deport them. It will simply disenfranchise them.
There will be heart-wrenching loss, though, in the lives of those 800,000 people for this cruel political posturing.
President Barack Obama imposed DACA because Congress could not pass immigration reform. The executive order allows children brought here illegally before 2007 at age 15 or younger to get two-year renewable residency status and work permits if they have no criminal records and meet education requirements. About 30,000 people in New York City fall into this category.
Trump has wavered so frequently between supporting these young people and excoriating them that it’s impossible to know what outcome he really wants. It’s only clear that he wants to satisfy his anti-immigrant base and notch something, anything, he can count as a win. But ending DACA would also be a cruel trick played on young people who gave the government their personal information in return for the promise of legal status — and now could see the government use that information against them.
Cloudy hopes for Dreamers
The tenuous status of the Dreamers is not entirely Trump’s fault, even if the heated rhetoric is. GOP governors and attorneys general threatened to sue to overturn Obama’s order. Given a 4-4 Supreme Court vote on similar immigration issues last year, and the arrival of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch this year, DACA was on shaky legal ground. Trump got elected by promising a border wall and deportations. Since then, he has promised to cut down on even legal immigration.
But many in both parties in Congress disagree with him, as does most of the business establishment. Trump challenged Congress to act. Lawmakers should pass a stand-alone DACA bill that lets Dreamers stay, or a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration plan. But this is a broken Congress that has other priorities, which makes effective action on DACA truly a Dreamer’s hope. Which will mean Trump’s move, rather than encouraging good legislation, instead imposes a heartless policy.