What’s Left: Debating DACA – Balancing Morality and Legality

James Goldin, Maroon-News Staff

The most recent shouting match in American politics has been the debate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This Obama-era policy allows certain immigrants to obtain work permits for a period of two years, which would then be renewable upon good behavior. This has kept illegal immigrants, oftentimes brought here as infants, from being deported. To apply, immigrants had to be younger than 31 years old on June 15, 2012, must have come to the U.S. when they were younger than 16 and must have lived in the U.S. since 2007. A key provision of the policy was that it was entirely self-funded; applicants must pay a fee of $495, thus sparing the U.S. taxpayers any direct increase in their taxes. Called out as a “Day One” repeal by President Trump, the Trump administration has set its sights on this policy. On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the program would be repealed, and President Trump stated, “It is now time for Congress to act!”

The aforementioned provisions in the DACA policy show the callousness of the Trump administration toward nearly 800,000 individuals. The Obama policy safeguarded the status of people who have grown up in America. Recipients must have at least a high school diploma, and must exhibit good behavior (shown through the lack of a criminal record). To deport such individuals is cruel, mean-spirited and entirely xenophobic. GOP rhetoric would have you believe that these “DREAMers,” as they are oftentimes called, are stealing thousands of jobs from native-born Americans. This is simply not the case. Nearly all economists agree that immigration serves as a net boon for the economy. A study from The Journal of Public Economics found that DACA benefits labor markets as a whole, and moved a significant portion of unemployed illegal immigrants toward stable income and steady jobs, enabling them to be taxed. Over 400 CEOs signed an open letter from the Leaders of American Industry urging the retention of the DACA policy. The letter states that “DREAMers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.” Individual CEOs also spoke out for the policy. In an interview, president and CEO of the Perryman Group, a Texas based economic research firm, Ray Perryman said that “we are at full employment with more job openings than at any point in history,” and that “we desperately need workers in this country.” Certain economic leaders also spoke out against the statements of Sessions and Trump. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, in an interview with NPR claimed that “repealing DACA is particularly wrongheaded as economic policy.”

Besides the purely illogical economic fallout that would result in a repeal and deportation of the DACA recipients, we must not forget the moral implications of such a policy change. It would say to our temporary immigration communities that their status in the country can turn on a dime, and that their place here can completely change with the political winds. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here, if you graduated from high school and are planning on going to college, and it certainly doesn’t matter if you exhibit good behavior. The repealing of DACA without a replacement would be a slap in the face to nearly 800,000 DREAMers, who are almost all hardworking, well-intentioned people.

 Contact James Goldin at [email protected]