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Will Trump End DACA, Keep Juan Escalante and Other Florida Dreamers From Building Their Lives?

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One of the first immigration battles of the incoming Trump administration will center on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the 1.9 million DACA-eligible young people across America who could benefit from the program, including 102,000 young people who are DACA-eligible in Florida. DACA is an unqualified success, helping to drive economic growth, bolster job creation, keep families together, promote education and community integration, and strengthen civic ties throughout the country. DACA also is popular – a recent poll from Global Strategy Group found that by more than a 2:1 margin, 58%-28%, Americans oppose an effort to repeal DACA.

Yet President-elect Trump, with the near-unanimous support of fellow Republicans, has promised to revoke DACA work permits and expose DREAMers to deportation on day one of his presidency. That pledge remains intact today, despite vague and empty rhetorical assurances about Dreamers’ futures from Trump and other Republicans. Below are key points and resources to come up to speed:

Don’t Buy the Spin About Trump and Republican Softening on DACA and Dreamers’ Futures. During a recent interview, President-elect Trump said about Dreamers’ futures, “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.” And during a recent CNN town hall event, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan offered vague assurances that Dreamers should not be worried.

However, we should not be fooled. Many Republicans understand they will look bad if they revoke DACA, but their virulently anti-immigrant base insists on it and not one GOP leader or Cabinet nominee has actually promised to preserve DACA or enact legislation to protect those with DACA. If Trump was serious about making people “happy and proud,” he would reverse his position on canceling DACA and maintain the policy until he works with Congress to pass a broad and permanent legislative fix. If Speaker Ryan truly believed that Dreamers should not be deported and should keep contributing, then he and other GOP leaders would clearly state that Republicans will keep DACA in place until legislation that replaces it is signed into law.  

What We Expect to Happen. What is predictable is that the Trump Administration will revoke DACA and allow work permits to expire in the coming months, all while stating that the proper way to deal with this sympathetic group is legislation. And then, to add insult to injury, Republican Congress leaders will continue to hide behind the same excuse it has used for the last decade: ‘we have to secure the border first, before we can even consider doing something compassionate’ (ignoring, of course, that the border is more secure than it’s been in 40 years).

No more spin or obfuscation.  It’s a time for action that produces concrete results for DACA recipients and other immigrants. Not a clever PR strategy designed to obscure Republicans’ near-unanimous support for revoking opportunities for more than 750,000 young people who call America home – a population greater in size than cities such as Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Seattle, or Washington, DC.

Reminders About the Benefits of DACA to Florida and America. DACA is an economic and fiscal boon to America. A recent economic analysis from the Center for American Progress found, “ending DACA would wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. gross domestic product” over the next decade. Other studies have demonstrated that DACA has both transformed the lives and opportunities of its recipients and increased state and local tax revenues. Among the key findings in an October 2016 survey of DACA recipients by Professor Tom Wong of the University of California, San Diego for United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Center for American Progress were that 95% of DACA recipients were currently working or in school and 63% reported that DACA allowed them to obtain a better paying job.

Individual Stories of DACA Recipients Offer Most Powerful Testimonials. In the face of fear and uncertainty about their futures, Dreamers and other immigrants continue to bravely tell their stories in public and illustrate the benefits of policies like DACA for individuals as well as America. Juan Escalante is a prominent Florida Dreamer and DACA recipient who works as Digital Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice. In a series of Medium posts, Juan has shared his reflections and outlook after Trump’s election, while detailing the importance of DACA and what immigrants and allies can do in the face of their fear and uncertainty. In his most recent Medium piece titled, “What Will You Do If Donald Trump Deports Me?” Juan reflects on what’s ahead for his family:

“I wrote this emergency plan in case Donald Trump’s deportation force tries to remove my family or me from the country. You should write one too.

…It would be naive to believe that Donald Trump would back off his anti-immigrant positions in just a matter of hours before his inauguration. So the president-elect’s threats have forced me to take every precaution against his imminent mass-deportation policies. If you are an ally, a friend, or a decent human being who understands that immigrants and refugees work hard, play by the rules and are proud aspiring Americans, then read this guide. I wrote it for the day that you witness the deportation of one of the eleven million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

First, show the world what my deportation looks like … My hope is that you, as a friend, advocate, or reader, will use online broadcasting tools like Facebook LIVE to show your friends, families, and community what Donald Trump’s mass deportation machine looks like. True, recording a deportation will be uncomfortable, difficult, and terrifying. Yet, if we are to resist Donald Trump’s deportation force, then the world must witness his draconian immigration enforcement tactics firsthand.

…In the end it comes down to each one of us. The fight against Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies depends on our communities … If you take away one thing from this post, then please let it be that deportations don’t just hurt immigrants and their families. They hurt our communities and our nation. Immigrant families are American families; there is no question about that. That is why I choose to do this work, and hopefully the reason that encourages you to join me in this epic struggle.”

Joining Juan, other DACA recipients throughout the country have been speaking out and sharing their stories:

See this growing New York Times collection of Dreamers’ stories
Read the recent Senate testimony of Dreamer and veteran Oscar Vasquez
Read the personal reflections of Denisse Rojas, a DACA-mented medical school student
Watch five DACA recipients tell their stories in a video from the Chronicle of Higher Education
Read seven DACA recipients’ stories from Colorado
Access Senator Dick Durbin’s collection of DACA recipients’ stories that he has highlighted on the Senate floor

America asked young undocumented people to trust their government, step forward and apply for DACA in order to be able to work legally, feel safe, and continue to help the country they call home. Now, the President-elect, his Cabinet nominees, and most others in the GOP are saying that we should betray that trust, revoke work permits and people’s livelihoods, once again subjecting these young people to deportation. There are even fears that DACA recipients’ information provided to the government during the application process could be used by the Trump Administration to facilitate enforcement. This is unacceptable.

Every day, brave men, women, and children continue to stand up and speak out on behalf of themselves and their families. They remind us what it means to be American. This is their home and they are here to stay. Now, our leaders in Washington need to recognize this reality.