Our country’s most ill-prepared president just lobbed one of our country’s stickiest problems into the court of the country’s least effective Congress, ever. What could go wrong? The dreams of nearly one million young people.
On Sept. 5, 2017, Attorney General and long-time anti-immigration advocate Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s decision to rescind President Obama’s executive order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Implemented five years ago, DACA was supposed to be a stop-gap measure to shield children and young adults, who were brought to the US illegally as minors by their parents. The plan was that Congress would move on immigration reform while DACA protected these young people from immediate deportation.
Roughly 800,000 young adults under DACA could face deportation if Congress fails to act within the next six months. The crux of the problem is that DACA was created because Congress shirked its duty on meaningful immigration reform. For 16 years, Congress has failed to pass any immigration reform– let alone comprehensive reform, which is sorely needed. Even the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) — which outlined a path to citizenship for Dreamers– has died a bipartisan death in Congress multiple times, since it was originally proposed in 2001.
Will Congress have the guts to save the Dreamers now?
Who are the Dreamers?
Most Dreamers were three years old when their parents brought them to the US; this is the only country they know. According to the New York Times, of the roughly 800,000 Dreamers under DACA, most are from Mexico and close to a quarter million of them (222,795) live in California. The next largest group — 124,300– lives in Texas; Arizona has the 6th largest group of Dreamers with 27,865. DACA-eligible immigrants have higher skills than undocumented immigrants who are ineligible because they were raised and educated in the United States. DACA-eligible workers are more likely to work in sales or office jobs than other undocumented workers. Seventy percent of Dreamers said they “got a job with better pay” when they came out of the shadows and registered with DACA.
Politicians like to tout the US as a “Christian nation” and a “nation of laws”. The Dreamers have followed the path set out for them. They came out of the shadows and registered for DACA, they went to school or the military, and they went to work. They kept of their part of the bargain, and now our broken government– a government that is strangled by right wing ideology and controlled by money– is poised to break its promise. A “Christian nation” would not break its promises to these young people, destroy their lives and their families, and shut the door in their faces.
Playing Politics with People’s Lives
Besides throwing the lives of millions of Americans into unnecessary financial and personal chaos, DACA deportations could cost our country an estimated $400 billion. The majority of DACA participants are employed. Eliminating 800,000 educated workers from the workforce and requiring businesses to go through the process of re-hiring and re-training workers– just to fulfill a mean-spirited campaign promise– is fiscally and morally irresponsible. The impact of deportations will be felt unevenly across the country, with the biggest financial impacts coming to California ($11.3 billion/year) and Texas ($6.1 billion/year). At $1.3 billion/year, the financial impact to Arizona is not insignificant.
There is a bipartisan movement to force Speaker of the House and self-proclaimed devout Catholic Paul Ryan to hear the DREAM Act if 218 representatives sign onto it. Obviously, getting off their duffs and passing at least some form of the DREAM Act is the morally and economically just course of action. Unfortunately, just because something makes sense on multiple levels doesn’t mean that our dysfunctional Congress will act.
Deporting Dreamers is morally wrong and economically unsound. Congress granted amnesty to three million “illegal immigrants” in 1986 under the direction of President Ronald Reagan. If they fail to act now, they have lost their moral compass. What would Jesus do, Mr. Ryan?