It would seem that for about 800,000 young people, the American Dream is dissolving.
The administration of President Trump announced Tuesday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program ordered by former President Obama is now on notice, allowing a six-month grace period during which Congress could — and should — legislate Obama’s executive order into a federal law.
The sensitive nature of DACA’s cancellation was underlined by the fact that Trump delegated the chore of announcing the program’s demise to a surrogate, rather than taking the heat himself. And there will be heat.
DACA itself is fairly straight forward — the program provided two-year stays of deportation, work permits and, in some states, driver's licenses to children who entered the United States without legal documentation prior to their 16th birthday, and who also met additional criteria.
The Trump administration actually was caught between a rock and a hard place regarding DACA’s ultimate fate. Trump, the candidate, had promised to end it on “day one,” which didn’t happen, then later, as president, he hinted that his administration had a big heart for the DACA youngsters. The hard place came in the form of threats from 10 states to sue the federal government if DACA was not nullified.
So, America finds itself in an awkward situation, with a president who has decided that punishing children for the sins of their parents is the right thing to do.
In fact, many if not most of the DACA young people are solid contributors to the U.S. economy and to our communities — including those here on the Central Coast. Many do not speak the language of the country from which their parents brought them to the U.S., and to which now they face deportation.
Unless, that is, a majority of members in Congress can find the courage to do the right thing, and turn Obama’s executive order into meaningful legislation. That’s a tall order from a Congress that has been disinclined to agree on anything, and whose agenda is already packed tight with issues such as raising the federal debt limit, approving funding for continuing government operations, tax reform and finding common ground on repealing, replacing or leaving alone the Affordable Care Act.
Another fact is that Congress needs to start formulating immigration-reform legislation. Trump has been circumspect about what he would do when or if such legislation reaches his desk, because he, too, is stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being his core base clamoring for an immigration crackdown, and the rest of America, which knows the value of contributions being made by not only the DACA young people, but their predominately law-abiding parents filling giant holes in the U.S. jobs market.
Again, we urge members of Congress — in both parties — to do what’s right, and exercise their power as one of the three branches of the federal government. DACA, or at least its intention, can be preserved, and immigration reform can be achieved. But it will need the full attention and cooperation of Republicans and Democrats to get the job done.
Americans should demand that their representatives in Congress do what they were elected to do — represent and support the will of the people, not just a small group of people, but everyone in this great land.
And in doing so, be careful not to commit the dreadful mistake of punishing children for the illegal acts of their mothers and fathers. They call these kids DREAMers for a very good reason, because it is part of the American Dream.