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DACA: What it is and how it affects us

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was established in June 2012 by former President Barack Obama, DACA allows immigrants who came to the United States as children to live and work without worrying about deportation. Dreamers, named after the DREAM Act which was proposed and rejected several times in the past decade, are also eligible for a work permit under DACA. As of this year, the program protects and supports 800,000 young people.

Recently, President Donald Trump has ordered an end to the program and urged Congress to pass a replacement before the program phases out in six months. In his official statement, Trump cites “lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers, substantial burdens on local schools and hospitals, the illicit entry of dangerous drugs and criminal cartels, and many billions of dollars a year in costs paid for by U.S. taxpayers” as his reasons for deciding on the repeal. He was also disturbed by the lack of compassion politicians have for the “millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system” and chose himself to be their champion. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also spoke of the suffering of native-born Americans under the DACA program, with particular emphasis on unemployment and low wages.

However, NPR disproves the idea that Dreamers are taking jobs away from American workers. Economists say they benefit American workers in the long term. “DACA beneficiaries also tend to be employed in higher-skilled jobs than workers who are in the country illegally,” according to NPR. Dreamers come here to learn, work and start their own lives and families. Is this not a direct reflection of the first immigrants to land on the East Coast or of the boom of European immigrants who arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries?

On Sept. 5, Obama released his own statement about the repeal. Within it, Obama acknowledged the universal want for safe borders but urged people to think critically. He claimed Dreamers are “young people who grew up in America — kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag.” They are also “Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

It makes no sense to him and to many others that some people in our country want to send Dreamers back to their countries of origin — countries they do not remember and do not know, or countries they do not love and have no connection to. Dreamers have friends, families and careers in the United States they want to keep. To deport them would be to uproot lives of nearly a million heart-and-soul Americans.

Dreamers have learned, taught, fought and served in this country. To assume their only worth is that of their labor is a discredit to how they have boosted our country and our economy. “…[I]f they were not there, the American economy would be 800 [thousand] young people smaller,” Giovanni Peri, an economics professor, said to NPR. “And the skills and productivity that they brought to the economy wouldn’t be here.”

On Sept. 14, contrary to his previous opinion on giving Dreamers the boot, President Trump tweeted “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..” This goes against Trump’s previously strong stance on immigration. The DACA issue “takes priority” compared to building a border wall, according to a White House aide. His base isn’t happy but it gives hope to many DACA recipients who are now unsure of their future in our country.

As a country, we need to acknowledge the worthiness of DACA’s continued existence. As a country of immigrants, we need to acknowledge the hypocrisy of deciding who is American based solely on country of origin.

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