On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration will begin phasing out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy in six months. The 2012 executive action granted temporary amnesty to certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors.
Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted:
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
Congress should heed the president's advice by granting a permanent path to citizenship for these hard-working American residents.
Contrary to popular myths, DACA is not an easy program to manipulate. To be eligible, applicants must first be free from felony convictions. Second, they must have enrolled in school or the U.S. military. In many ways, DACA recipients are model Americans, pursuing an education or serving the country that they consider home.
Indeed, many DACA recipients have little or no memory of their native country considering that they were brought to the U.S. as children. Some only speak English. Deporting this vulnerable class of American society would be a heartless action and a drain on the economy.
Trump, oddly enough, understood this in 2011. In an appearance in Fox News, Trump commented:
"You have people in this country for 20 years, they've done a great job, they've done wonderfully, they've gone to school, they've gotten good marks, they're productive — now we're supposed to send them out of the country. I don't believe in that."
Even after taking the oath of office, Trump has made similar remarks, commenting in January that Dreamers "shouldn't be very worried" because he has "a big heart." Congressional Republicans should make good on the president's promise to show compassion to these productive members of society.
Study after study has shown that immigrants commit far fewer crimes than native-born Americans and are twice as likely to start a business. Of course, not all immigrants are model citizens or entrepreneurs. But, the hoops that DACA recipients have jumped through to stay in the country temporarily is proof enough of their economic value and human integrity.
DACA recipients are not anchor babies. They did not willfully violate any immigration law. They are our neighbors who were brought here without knowledge as children and have made the most of their new country — oftentimes, the only country they know.
There's no doubt that comprehensive immigration reform is desperately needed. Protecting Dreamers, as Trump has called for, should be part of the conversation.
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