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Yesterday’s meeting between DHS Secretary John Kelly and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus made it clear: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has been a huge success for young people who are Americans in all but paperwork as well as a huge success for the country, is threatened. The challenge for those of us who support DACA – from across the country and from across the political spectrum – is to rise up in defense of Dreamers.
Ultra-nationalists, frustrated that President Trump has kept DACA in place until now, are trying to force his hand. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is demanding that DACA be killed off or else. If the Trump Administration doesn’t end DACA by September 5th, Paxton says he will seek to bring the case before a federal judge named Andrew Hanen, who is notoriously anti-immigrant and infamously blocked the DAPA initiative that would have provided relief to some 4 million undocumented immigrants in America. Paxton seems to have a willing ally Attorney General Jeff Sessions in this end around Trump. All Sessions has to do is decide not to contest such a lawsuit (he has long claimed its unconstitutional), and together, Paxton and Sessions will have ended DACA without having to get Trump’s buy-in. Sessions can tell the boss, ‘the courts made me do it.’
Killing off DACA would be an unmitigated disaster for Dreamers, their families and our nation. DACA has unlocked economic opportunities for the nearly 800,000 beneficiaries who have come forward, passed background checks, and been granted permission to live and work legally in America. Most have flourished. Many have been able to fulfill their dreams of attending and completing college. Those not in school are working legally and paying taxes, providing for their families and even buying homes.
In addition to being successful, DACA and the Dreamers are popular as well. DACA enjoys the support of employers, universities, educators, community leaders, and elected officials from both parties. Even President Trump, when asked about those with DACA, said “They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.” According to an April Morning Consult and Politico poll, 78% of American voters support giving Dreamers the chance to stay permanently in America, including 73% of Trump voters. Only 14% of all voters think Dreamers should be deported, rising to only 23% of Trump supporters.
The Bannon-Miller-Sessions crowd in the Trump Administration want to play politics with the lives of these young people. Killing DACA might excite the Alt Right, but it’s just plain wrong. It’s contrary to who we are as Americans; it is stupid and counterproductive as policy; and it’s downright cruel. We must raise our voices and make sure DACA lives. For five years, DACA has burned as bright as the torch atop the Statue of Liberty, and we cannot stand by as radicals set out to extinguish the futures of young people who are an integral part of our nation’s future.
As longtime immigrant rights champion Rep. Gutierrez said on the House floor today:
We are going to have to organize, mobilize and stand with our allies to protect families, to protect American citizens in those families, and to defend communities, because these guys [in the Trump Administration] are serious. They want to deport millions of people and they are coming after the Dreamers and those with deep ties and long-term lives in the US.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
The clock is ticking, but we refuse to give up hope. We call on Republicans and Democrats to speak up for Dreamers and DACA. We call on President Trump to remind Attorney General Sessions that this is a decision for the President to make and to tell Texas to stop their underhanded, bullying behavior. And we call on allies of immigrants to make a stand for Dreamers and all immigrants and refugees. This is a moment of truth, and history has its eyes on us.