Late Sunday night, Politico reported that President Trump will announce a plan on Tuesday to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)––which temporarily protects those who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children from deportation––following a six-month phase-out period. The report, which cites unnamed White House officials, reflects yet another reversal from President Trump who told DACA recipients (known as DREAMers) in January that “they shouldn’t be very worried” about a repeal of the program.
The decision comes roughly two days after prominent Republicans Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Orrin Hatch advised the president against rescinding DACA, once again putting President Trump at odds with his own party. There has also been bipartisan pushback with members of congress from across the aisle condemning the action:
A repeal with drastic consequences
DACA protects nearly 800,000 individuals who arrived in the U.S. as minors from deportation and allows them to obtain a work permit as well as a driver’s license (although roughly 1.3 million people are eligible for DACA, not all have applied). An eventual repeal of DACA would remove the only barrier preventing these people from detention and deportation by immigration authorities and is especially dangerous given the fact that in order to receive DACA status, applicants had to provide the federal government with sensitive information that could leave them vulnerable to immigration raids (even though such information should never be given to ICE or DHS).
For the many current and prospective college students whose academic pursuits hinge on the protections afforded under DACA, President Trump’s announcement could prove to be an insurmountable roadblock on the way to graduation. DREAMers attending college in the 21 states that grant in-state tuition to undocumented or DACA students, the cost of education could skyrocket making a degree financially unattainable. And without the DACA work permit students would struggle to find a job to cover the cost differential.
The (somewhat dim) light at the end of the tunnel
The purportedly delayed nature of the repeal would include a six-month “grace period” which would give Congress the opportunity to save DACA. There is currently a measure in the House that would “institutionalize much of the DACA program” which is cosponsored by 12 Republican lawmakers and is being pushed to a vote by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO 6th). Whether or not the bill could be signed into law hinges on the immigration hawk Republicans in the House that vehemently oppose any form of deferred action program (Senate Republicans are largely in favor of the legislation).
The 2016 GOP party platform proclaims that they are “the party of a growing economy,” a sentiment reflected by polls of the American people expressing more confidence in Republican economic leadership than their Democratic counterpart. Such strong support for free-market economic growth may explain some of their seemingly counterintuitive support for DACA. The Cato Institute, a right-leaning think tank, explains that a repeal of DACA coupled with the deportation of previously protected individuals would cost the federal government over $60 billion and result in a “$280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next decade.” In comparison, the plan to provide gender-reassignment surgery for transgender service members and veterans was estimated to cost a measly $2.4 to $8.4 million annually––and yet it was decried by Republicans as “very costly.”
President Trump’s announcement is certainly alarming, but it is not necessarily catastrophic. Congress will have six months to implement a solution before the stopgap expires. DREAMers and DACA supporters must seize every moment within that timeframe to push legislators towards the institutionalization of DACA so that every child has the opportunity to succeed.
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