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Let's Be Clear, GOP: Ending DACA Means Deporting DREAMers

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) just became the latest Republican to call for an end to DACA:

It’s not necessarily what McCain is referring to, but calling for an end to DACA has been one response of choice for a number of Republicans addressing the children fleeing violence crisis.  Darrell Issa wrote a letter to Obama about it.  Bob Goodlatte spoke about it.  It’s the crux of Ted Cruz’s latest publicity stunt.  Not to mention the fact that, for separate reasons, the House has been giving Steve King votes to end DACA for more than a year.

But one thing should be made clear.  Ending DACA is not an academic exercise.  Ending DACA effectively means resuming the regular deportation of DREAMers.  Ending DACA means taking away the one of the most important advancements that has been won in immigration reform in decades.

President Obama’s deferred action program is now widely accepted as a given, and polls well among a majority of Americans.  It’s given hundreds of thousands of DREAMers a shot at the American dream, allowing them to legally work, drive, obtain health care, open bank accounts, fly on airlines, and more.  But less than two years ago, DREAMers — young people who came to the US as children, who have only known the US as home — were regularly facing serious threat of deportation, and in many cases were deported.

Nancy Landa was deported in 2009 with her family after not being able to renew her visa, and after not being able to receive financial aid for college even though she won a Gates Millennium scholarship.  Saad Nabeel was deported with his family after attempting to enter Canada, even though green cards had been approved for the family, who were just waiting for them to arrive.  Yanelli Hernandez was deported in 2012 despite showing symptoms of mental illness.  And those are only a few of the cases we know about — thousands of DREAMers are likely to be among the more than 2 million immigrants deported during Obama’s tenure.  Many probably didn’t even know that they were DREAMers or that they could fight their removals.

Countless others–Mandeep Chahal, Ola Kaso, Mariano Cardoso, Pedro Gutierrez, Alberto Yanez, to name a few–were detained and granted temporary stays of deportation only after exhausting and intensely stressful media campaigns, prompting questions of why so much work had to constantly be done on a case-by-case basis in order to keep a young person who had never done anything wrong at home.  And there were stories of DREAMers who took their own lives, driven to desperation by a seemingly hopeless future where they could not work or go to school.

All of this is not likely to make much difference to the House and Senate Republicans who will continue to call for an end to DACA as a supposed example of Obama’s “executive lawlessness.”  But the rest of us should remember that an even darker time of deportation and separation existed not at all long ago.  And that’s what the GOP, that party of mass deportation, is trying to send us back to.