Media reports are swirling that Trump will end DACA, threatening the ability of hundreds of thousands of young people to pursue higher education and obtain employment. As the Trump administration continues to ingratiate itself with white supremacists, it may be up to Congress to uphold the very low bar that this country not actively promote a white supremacist agenda. Are Congressional Republicans up for the task?
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a popular program that provides a path to a legally recognized status for people who were brought to the United States as children. Started under former President Barack Obama, the program has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people — all of whom pass thorough background checks — to temporarily gain permits to live and work in the U.S.
More than 24,000 young Georgians have benefited from the DACA program — as have nearly 800,000 people across the country. These young Georgians currently have the ability to get a driver’s license, pursue higher education and obtain employment. An additional 23,000 young people in Georgia are eligible for DACA.
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute estimates that the combined 47,000 young people eligible for or currently enrolled in DACA contribute $66 million a year in state and local taxes. While the Center for American Progress estimates that deporting Georgia’s DACA recipients would cost the state over $1 billion in lost GDP over ten years.
The Trump administration is apparently hoping to use DACA recipients — often called DREAMers, after the DREAM Act — as a bargaining chip to pass anti-immigrant legislation. During the campaign, Trump promised to end DACA; however since assuming the presidency his stance appeared to have softened. Until now.
Earlier this month, Trump enthusiastically supported Sen. David Perdue’s anti-immigrant RAISE Act, speaking out in support of the measure along with Sen. Perdue and the bill’s other key sponsor during a press conference. The RAISE Act would cut legal immigration in half and put extreme limits on the number of refugees able to get permanent residency. Human Rights Watch has suggested this bill would be one of the intended beneficiaries of a deal.
Because the DACA program is a temporary program put in place by executive action, Congress needs to pass the DREAM Act — or a similar Congressional Act — in order to provide DACA-recipients more than just temporary, short-term legal status. There are more than 800,000 young people in the U.S. who have only ever known this country, and depend on the DACA program to be able to access the educational opportunities and legal work status they need to build lives.
The Trump administration has already shown a disgusting alignment with white supremacist values, as has most recently been displayed in his horrendous remarks following the criminal violence in Charlottesville, Va. and the pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio is the sheriff from Maricopa County in Arizona, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt for blatantly and boldly ignoring court orders that he stop violating the constitutional rights of people just because they looked like Latinos. Trump’s pardon came before the courts could even sentence him.
If Trump follows through — by either ending the DACA program or using its legislative counterpart (the DREAM Act) as a bargaining chip to push through his anti-immigrant, white supremacist policy goals — then it will be up to Congress to act. Congressional Republicans may just have uphold the incredibly low bar of not allowing policy in this country to support a blatant and dangerous white supremacist agenda.
The lives and livelihoods of 800,000 young people depend on what happens next. What side of history will our leaders be on?