On Thursday, Oct. 12 President Trump announced that he would extend the March 5th deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expiration if Congress failed to act by then. This comes just over a month into the countdown, only 40 days after declaring on Twitter that “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA. If they can’t, then I will revisit the issue.”
Here’s the thing. From the start, the creation of this deadline was politically misguided and socially reckless. Nearly 800,000 of those who benefit from the DACA program, often called Dreamers, because they would have also benefitted from the previously proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, relied on the provisions included in DACA, and the sudden announcement of its eventual revocation created an unbelievable amount of legal uncertainty. There were no measures in place to protect the people dependent on the act. A large group of US residents with jobs, education and military positions were suddenly faced with deportation to a country of origin they didn’t know.
This is irresponsibility in its highest form. Regardless of the supposed victory over previous “executive overreach” that removing DACA gives the new regime, the Trump administration was going to strip away the only support for Dreamers that existed without a certain solution. They may have given the Congress six months, but we are all very familiar with the efficiency of the current legislative body. While the clock on DACA has ticked, Trump has withdrawn healthcare provisions for women and low-income people. The Congress has gone through yet another failed Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement. The DREAM Act has been re-proposed, but there’s no indication that it has made any political progress.
Promising to extend a deadline in the case that a rushed and most likely unsatisfactory law regarding Dreamers doesn’t pass is not helpful. All it does is lessen the incentive to solve the logistical problem of 800,000 displaced residents even more and increase the chance that Trump has to “revisit the issue.” Does that mean another (and this time, hypocritical) executive action? There is no surefire way to know with the current executive branch. What is indisputable is that legislation for Dreamers is essential public policy, and the fact that it is being handled so cavalierly reflects poorly on the current administration.
Dreamers are not just numbers whose loss would hurt our economy. They are economic contributors, social participants and most importantly, human beings. While the economic implications of their presence in the United States are certainly positive, it is deplorable that these are what matter most, as opposed to figures such as their median age of entry (six years old). These aren’t strawmen immigrants whom the US Attorney General has identified as being dangerous and job-thieving. The longer this political problem is prolonged, the more reductionist and dehumanizing it becomes. With this point being made, I have a fairly straightforward closing consideration.
I am a Canadian immigrant who entered the country at age nine under the volition of my parents, two people who possessed the resources and the choice to legally relocate. I’m in debt, honestly pretty lazy and spend a lot of my time doing nothing to contribute to the well-being of this country. Does that sound advantageous to the United States? No, or at least not until my degree hopefully pays off. Am I being threatened with deportation? No, because my parents moved me here in a way that is legally protected. If we’re going to create policy on the basis of societal contribution and fairness, then in theory, I should go before any Dreamer does.
So, to the 115th Congress and the President of the United States, I say this: Quit delaying this critical issue and give Dreamers the justice and protections they deserve. You have a chance to ensure that the futures of 800,000 individuals and the people they affect aren’t mangled by political complexity. Don’t screw it up.
Jackson Rudoff is a first-year political science and English double major who is also minoring in French. You can usually find him in his room chanting the Canadian national anthem or doing sick tricks in the hallways with his roommate.