Throughout the contentious 2016 election campaign, immigration was a major issue, especially for now President Trump.
As part of his immigration platform, President Trump is considering repeal of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to request deferred removal actions against them. We strongly urge President Trump to reconsider his proposal to repeal this effective program — or replace it with something similar.
We take issue with false assumptions that somehow make undocumented individuals synonymous with “terrorists.” DACA is a truly arduous and vetted process that allows individuals who want to contribute to our country stay and live out the American dream. Nevertheless, many individuals assert that DACA is amnesty, but the subsequent information can enlighten those who believe the many myths of the DACA program.
DACA allows those brought to the U.S. as minors to avoid being deported, which makes sense given they did nothing wrong themselves. DACA, however, does not provide legal status. It simply delays deportation for two-year periods. Among the requirements that qualified participants must meet: been living in the U.S. continuously since 2007, never been convicted of a crime, and must undergo biometric and biographic background checks to ensure they pose no threat to the safety or security of our nation. DACA is not amnesty. Individuals, as you can see, must meet very stringent requirements that allow them to stay in the country and have their removal deferred.
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The majority of the about 800,000 people who have taken advantage of the DACA program have built lives in the United States, contribute to our economy and know no other nation as “home.” These people are our neighbors, classmates, co-workers and so forth, and in no way drag our country down. They lift it up and enrich it with their hard work and commitment to making our country the envy to the rest of the world. Because the DACA program was initiated by an executive order by former President Obama, it would be relatively straightforward for President Trump to rescind it. However, this would be a huge economic and political mistake.
Today, DACA participants play a major role in our economy. Repeal of this program would create an immediate economic crisis that could cost the United States’ gross domestic product more than $400 billion over the next 10 years. Almost 90 percent of DACA participants are employed, and they tend to earn higher wages than other undocumented workers, meaning they pay more in taxes and do more to help drive growth in our economy. Removing them from their jobs would disrupt thousands of businesses around the nation, and have a major, negative impact on the unemployment rate. Doing so would also disrupt the functions of schools, hospitals, and myriad other essential facilities and services. Especially in an area such as the Tri-Cities, Benton and Franklin counties, agriculture production would come to a screeching halt.
Repealing DACA is also perilous from a political perspective. The fact that President Trump was able to win the White House in 2016 doesn’t change the fact of our changing demographics as a nation. In future elections, minorities — especially Hispanics — will continue to play an ever-larger role in deciding who holds power in Washington, D.C. Removal of DACA participants and the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. would not only be the biggest economic crisis of our time, but also the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time. Imagine the footage of rounding up and shipping out nearly 1 million DACA participants against their will, often to places of which they have no attachment, knowledge or available support.
These students, mothers, fathers and children are simply undocumented Americans who risked their lives to come here and experience the American Dream. John F. Kennedy once said, “Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.” Let’s keep the spirit of DACA alive and stay true to our immigrant past.
Leo Perales is the spokesperson for the Latino Coalition of Tri-Cities and Quantum Ed. He is a Kennewick native and resident. He sits on the Benton County Planning Commission, Kennewick Housing Authority Commission and is a volunteer on the Benton Franklin Juvenile Truancy Board.