On Sept. 5, the country watched as 800,000 dreams came to an end.
The Trump administration’s announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) means that as soon as March of 2018, beneficiaries, dubbed “Dreamers,” could face deportation.
Since the birth of the Obama-era program in 2012, DACA has faced harsh criticism at the hands of the Republican Party and anti-immigration activists. Designed to protect undocumented youths from immediate removal, DACA allows each beneficiary a period of two years in the United States and a work permit, both subject to renewal. It does not provide lawful status, but makes the removal of childhood immigrants less of a priority.
For most Dreamers, deportation would mean a return to a country they hardly remember, if at all. Most have spent the majority of their lives in America. They have grown up within the nation’s borders: gone to school here, worked here, pursued higher education at American universities, become members of the armed forces, and formed friendships and relationships. They are American in every way that matters. Those protected by the program might as well be native born and are deserving of citizenship. To deport them would be as good as saying: “It doesn’t matter what they done for us, because Americans don’t care about who you are, only what you are. If you weren’t born here, you don’t belong here.”
Less than 2% of DACA beneficiaries are white, with the grand majority of them having originated from Central American countries such as Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. The termination of the program could be viewed as a targeting of Hispanic and Latino communities. The xenophobic implications of the announcement only serve to further solidify Trump’s white supremacist image, an image that originated early in his presidential campaign when he repeatedly issued several derogatory, racist remarks.
Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the decision was wholly unpredicted. Prior to being elected, Trump repeatedly pledged to terminate DACA as part of his crackdown on illegal immigration, earning himself support from the GOP. In June, a collection of Republican attorney generals threatened to file a lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of DACA if the Trump administration failed to act by Sept. 5.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, also present on Tuesday, stated that DACA would not survive the courts and would be deemed unlawful; it would be considered an overreach of power at the hands of the Obama administration. Despite reportedly calling Dreamers “incredible kids,” Trump gave in to anti-immigration pressure and, in a cold-hearted written statement, attributed violence and gang activity to the influx of immigrants in the years since DACA was initiated.
Ironically, while fulfilling one promise, the president may very well be falling short on another. The economic consequences of the termination of DACA are estimated to be a loss in both $60 billion in federal tax revenue and $280 billion in economic growth over the next decade. Dreamers stand accused of stealing jobs and keeping wages low, but in reality they’re essential to businesses across the country seeking qualified employees.
There are 27 million foreign-born persons in the American labor force that constantly help to stem worker shortages. As of June of this year, there are reportedly 6.2 million job openings. The deportation of Dreamers would lead to less production and consumption, both of which are vital to economic growth and expansion. This is the exact opposite of the change Trump pledged to bring upon being elected.
The decision to end the program isn’t the first of Trump’s presidency to prove controversial—even within his own party. Moderate Republicans such as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch have openly stated their opposition, while others like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida have suggested legislation that will address the legal status of the Dreamers and perhaps extend protection. Public opinion still lies in support of the DACA program with Politico reporting that 76% of Americans believe Dreamers are entitled to citizenship or at the very least, resident status.
Protests have ignited across the nation urging lawmakers to protect the Dreamers. Several business executives, university presidents, and politicians alike are condemning Trump for his cruelty and lack of empathy.
The Dreamers entrusted the government with extensive personal information upon applying for the program—it remains to be seen whether or not this information will be used to hunt down and deport them, a move of hypocrisy that can only be seen as an ultimate betrayal. In the meantime, DACA recipients can only hope that Congress takes action in time to salvage their chance at the American dream.