From a political point of view, President Trump’s announcement that he is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for immigrant youth is probably a smart idea. He has passed the buck to Congress.
From just about every other point of view — economic, humanitarian, historical, geopolitical — it is a terrible idea. Congress has no proven capacity to act on immigration issues.
Deporting illegal immigrants is a big issue for Trump’s shrinking base, and was one of his key campaign promises. Deporting those who were brought into the country as toddlers or infants, however, presents tough problems, even for Trump.
Abruptly ending DACA in six months, as Trump threatens — or promises — to do would be cruel and disruptive. Trump has given Congress a six-month deadline for action, with failure bringing painful and self-defeating consequences.
First, there’s the question of the United States’ credibility, already shaky after reneging on some major international agreements. The federal government made a deal with young people who were brought to the country illegally as children. It promised that as long as they lived by the rules, including passing a criminal background check, they could live, study and work in the U.S.
Nearly 800,000 young people — about 11,000 of them in Oregon — accepted the government’s offer in good faith, voluntarily giving their personal information to the authorities.
And this is a deal that has benefited the country, contrary to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ remarks on Tuesday, which played on the themes of xenophobia and scapegoating.
Can’t find a job, or your kid can’t find a job? It’s the fault of DACA: “DACA denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens,” Sessions said.
Never mind that he and Trump provided zero evidence of this; that many employers are struggling to find workers, even for well-paid jobs; that all DACA visa holders are equal to 0.5 percent of the U.S. workforce, and that about 45 percent are attending school, according to a 2017 study.
Sessions also invoked the twin specters of public safety and national security, although the DACA program bars anyone who has been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or more than three misdemeanors of any kind, or who poses a threat to national security or public safety.
It also requires that applicants be in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces.
The truth is that many DACA participants, dubbed “dreamers,” know no country but the United States — this is their home. Some are now young adults, raising children of their own.
The country has an investment in all of them, including in their education. The return on that investment comes when the recipients become part of the workforce, as many are now doing, providing and buying goods and services and paying taxes. With the rapid growth in the number of Social Security recipients, the U.S. needs young workers to pay into the system and help keep it solvent.
Underlying all of this is the fact that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, each generation of whom has made the country stronger. Now is not the time to turn our backs on this rich history and tradition, losing people who can help keep the country strong for future generations.
— The Eugene Register-Guard,