Day 230: Trump’s Cowardice on DACA Decision as Prominent as Ever
In June 2012, after watching Congress flail for a decade trying to protect undocumented immigrant children from deportation under a billed called the Dream Act, Barack Obama instituted a program, via executive order, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA allowed certain undocumented immigrants protection from deportation. If they entered the country as minors, they received renewable two-year periods of deferred action from deportation and were eligible for work permits. In essence, the Obama administration determined that deporting non-criminal children who had done nothing wrong was low on the priority spectrum.
Beneficiaries under DACA, also known as Dreamers, are ineligible for food stamps, welfare, Section 8 housing and Medicaid. They are not a drain on the system. In fact, the opposite. They pay sales, local, state and income taxes. They graduate with honors, serve in the military, buy cars and homes, work for some of the biggest companies in the world and represent the American dream.
Now, Donald Trump has announced he’s ending DACA in six months. Asked during the campaign what he thought about Dreamers, Trump indicated he’d leave them alone and they’d be just fine. But now, it appears he’s changed his mind and they won’t be just fine.
Donald Trump has tried to flex his muscles on immigration. He’s claimed he has total authority under the Constitution to demand a border wall, since that deals with immigration. He’s professed the powers to institute a travel ban/Muslim ban, again claiming his broad immigration powers under the Constitution allow him to do so. But now the administration is claiming that DACA is unconstitutional, despite the broad immigration and related powers granted to the president.
Hundreds of prominent business leaders, including CEOs from Facebook, Twitter, AT&T and Viacom, penned an open letter to Trump regarding his DACA decision.
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we are concerned about new developments in immigration policy that threaten the future of young undocumented immigrants brought to America as children.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows nearly 800,000 Dreamers the basic opportunity to work and study without the threat of deportation, is in jeopardy. All DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes. More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees.
Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, all 780,000 hardworking young people will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and every one of them will be at immediate risk of deportation. Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.
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.
We call on President Trump to preserve the DACA program. We call on Congress to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act or legislation that provides these young people raised in our country the permanent solution they deserve.
In typical Trump fashion, his cowardice rang through the entire process. Not only is he picking on vulnerable, upstanding community members, he made his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, make the official announcement of the decision.
Then, Trump, a notorious buck passer, tried to blame Obama.
In an eloquent letter, Obama, in a rare display of a former president criticizing the decision-making of a current one, pushed back on Trump’s assertion his decision as a whole:
Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.
But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America — kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.
Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people — our young people — that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.
That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.
But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating — because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?
Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.
It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.
Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people — and who we want to be.
What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals — that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.
Trump’s tweet also backtracks that he may do anything at all. He’s holding a political gun to Dreamers’ heads and telling Congress to pass legislation to codify a program already in place. If Congress doesn’t, Trump has threatened to simultaneously pull the trigger and give Congress an additional warning. The only thing he’s making clear is that he doesn’t want to deal with the political fallout: he either wants the credit of signing a bill into law, or the ability to blame Congress for failing to put one on his desk.
From a purely financial perspective, tearing up DACA will cost the U.S. nearly a half trillion dollars worth of growth domestic product over the next decade, in addition to spending hundreds of billions of dollars deporting individuals to countries they don’t remember. From a humanitarian perspective, engaging in political stunts with the lives of nearly a million scared Americans in every single way but on paper, to borrow one of Obama’s lines, is shameful and cowardly.
230 days in, 1232 to go