A federal judge ruled Tuesday in favor of protecting undocumented youth from deportation — a ruling pushing back against the Trump administration’s efforts to discontinue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Judge John Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled protections for DACA will remain in place and, for the first time since Trump launched attacks to the program, be reopened to new applicants.
DACA provides two-year, renewable work permits for less than 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as “Dreamers.” DACA was created to ease some of the burden the children of illegal immigrants face. Brought into the United States illegally by their parents, these young people face extreme pressure growing up while avoiding deportation.
Reflect on the stressors you felt growing up: the pressure to succeed academically and socially, the challenges of navigating family relationships and the desire to get into your top college. Now add to those stresses the fear of being deported from your home, of being torn away from a society you are acculturated to, of losing everything you know based on the perception that you belong to a different nationality.
These are real fears that Dreamers face. DACA provides Dreamers with a reprieve from fears of deportation and the ability to receive an education, find work and earn a driver’s license. These are fundamental rights that should not be stripped from any minor based on prejudice against their parents.
Children have no control over whether or not they immigrate legally to this country. Rather than punishing them for their parents’ choices, we should support them in their goals of achieving successful futures. Holding youth accountable for their parents’ decisions to relocate them to the United States is punishing them, quite literally, for existing.
The existence of each of these Dreamers is something that should be not only tolerated, but also appreciated. Discontinuing DACA would have dire effects on the future of each Dreamer it protects, but it would have an economic cost as well. Currently, nearly 700,000 DACA recipients reside in the United States, and they constitute the future of our workforce. The potential wasted economic benefits of deporting these are estimated to be $433.4 billion, and deporting youths themselves would cost an estimated $69 billion to $76 billion.
Boston itself is home to a significant Haitian immigrant population — approximately 5,000 Haitians currently reside on Boston under the Temporary Protected Status program. The cultural and economic atmosphere of the city would not be the same without their influence in the small business and political realms.
Higher education is largely representative of the white, upper class. When immigrants are not granted full citizenship, they are unable to become educated and find work. Policies preventing upward mobility of immigrants act as gatekeepers, containing one racial subset of people to the lower class. Repealing DACA keeps upper class whites in positions of power.
The impulse to deport Dreamers is often based on the idea that they do not belong in the United States — that they are somehow less American for having been born elsewhere. Some proponents of DACA use the idea of “being American” to their advantage, arguing that immigrating to America as young children makes Dreamers just as American as the rest.
In truth, to be American is an idea that is purely constructed. There is no age limit at which one can adopt a national identity, and no one can determine another’s national identity for them. The ruling to protect DACA sends a message to Dreamers they have a place in the United States.
But this ruling is not necessarily permanent. For 90 days, the Department of Homeland Security has the chance to petition against the ruling and give reasons as to why they ended the program — a difficult task, seeing as the DHS hasn’t been able to prove this in a year’s time since Trump first repealed the program last March.
Bates, coincidentally, is a judge appointed by Republican president George W. Bush — speaking to just how bipartisan the issue of protecting Dreamers is. The general conservative population does not back the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle DACA. Trump’s efforts have no basis in rationale; they are motivated by misguided prejudice and fear of “the other” that is so extreme that it extends to children.
While this ruling marks a tentative victory for Dreamers, we have miles to go before immigrants are accepted as American citizens. Bates himself referred to Dreamers as “aliens” repeatedly in his ruling, though he ruled in their favor. It’s easy for some people to see recipients of government programs as inherently undeserving, especially when they have not been born in the United States.
Remaining impartial on this topic, however, is a luxury afforded to those whose loved ones are not at risk. We all must stand with Dreamers in fighting for the fair treatment of immigrants.