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Editorial: Removing DACA is pointless and divisive


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President Donald Trump is expected to lay out today his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or “DACA,” a program that grants immigrants who arrived in the United States illegally as children protections from deportation.

The Obama administration immigration policy protects young immigrants who arrived in the United States before age 16 and who have lived here since at least June 2007. Those protected under DACA — commonly called “DREAMers” in reference to the 2001 DREAM Act, which offered legal status to immigrants who attended college or joined the military — are allowed to pursue options every other American is entitled to, such as going to college, starting careers or merely obtaining a drivers’ license.

The Obama administration originally sought to give DREAMers a path to citizenship, but settled on DACA in 2012 after Congress halted the original legislation, according to the Vox. Though DREAMers are not legally considered citizens, they may apply for a renewal to defer any legal consequences for illegal immigration on a bi-yearly basis.

While Trump will not be making a sweeping declaration with immediate consequences — it’s anticipated his decision will go into effect in six months — the decision to end DACA has far reaching consequences for nearly 800,000 individuals living in America who may suddenly find their protections, along with the lives they’ve established in the country.

Many of these DREAMers have spent the majority of their lives within the United States. On average, the median age of a DACA recipients upon arriving in the United States was 6-and-a-half years old, according to a survey of 3,063 DACA recipients conducted by Center for American Progress. DREAMers have, in many cases, never known a life other than the one they’ve lived in the United States.

Nestor Nunez Vasquez, a DREAMer who came to the United States from Mexico with his parents at the age of 10, is only one of immigrants whose life could be permanently altered in the aftermath of the president’s decision. In an interview with NPR, Nunez Vasquez, now a 25-year-old studying nursing at Southern Regional Technical College in Georgia, spoke of the anxiety DREAMers have felt in the months since Trump’s election, anticipating the worst for the program that has enabled them to live normal lives in America.

“When Trump was running for president, and when he finally got elected, I certainly was very, very scared,” Nunez Vasquez said. “And so were many other people. We just – there was so much uncertainty, we just didn’t know what was going to happen. And a lot of people were going even through the lengths of applying for the permit early, just planning for the worst-case scenario, essentially.”

Yet, Trump seemed to give the DREAMers some hope in the early months of his presidency. He promised that he would treat those benefitting from DACA “with heart,” a claim that he seems to have turned his back on.

The question that looms over many heads is now, what will become of the thousands of college students protected by DACA. DREAMers not only dream of becoming a U.S. citizen but also a college graduate. In a country that has made it nearly impossible to get a decent paying job without a college degree, this will become another setback for undocumented immigrants.

For many, it may ultimately come down to the University’s decision to protect these students. We saw a similar situation last year when Marshall University was faced with the possibility of a the president’s immigration ban, widely condemned for targeting seven majority Muslim countries. President Gilbert and the University said they would do everything in their power and within the law to protect their students who may have to leave the country. So, we may be hearing from the University soon and their stance on DACA.

Trump has received considerable blowback for the planned decision from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Last week, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan encouraged Trump to hold off on the decision.

“I actually don’t think he should do that,” Ryan said. “I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.”

It remains to be seen what approach Trump will take in his gutting of the program — some have speculated he will kill the program all at once, immediately stripping 800,000 of their protections and livelihoods. Others have estimated he will sunset the program, no longer letting new applicants to apply for the program while those currently protected by DACA will continue to be for the remainder of their two years.

Either way, ripping the benefits of DACA from 800,000 Americans for seemingly no reason is hard to reconcile as anything other than a cruel, divisive decision by a president grasping at straws to enact meaningful policy. With months of blowback over Charlottesville, Russia and a failure to push through legislation in Congress, it appears that Trump is, once again, propping up immigrants as a scapegoat to distract from his own shortcomings, a tactic he employed successfully throughout his campaign for the presidency, but one that may have real human consequences now that he has the power to legislate it.

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