A nightmare for America’s ‘Dreamers’

opinion September 09, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

By ending DACA, Trump signals he’s ready to trample over human rights and humanity



On issues great and small, United States President Donald Trump is usually teetering on his heels, both in terms of public sentiment and congressional support, even among his fellow Republicans. His latest policy announcement, regarding the children of illegal immigrants to the US, is a glaring example. In this he is being judged on genuinely humanitarian grounds, and the consensus is darkly negative.

His decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme in six months has sparked an outcry. As with healthcare, Trump wants Congress to pass legislation that will replace the Obama initiative, but, unlike healthcare, few in Congress seem to think there’s anything wrong with what’s already in place. 

Response from prominent individuals outside politics has been vociferous. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg urged his fellow Silicon Valley bosses to sign an “open letter” to the president, urging that DACA – which gives children brought illegally to America the right to remain, study and work – be left intact. These so-called “Dreamers” represent the future of the country, Zuckerberg said, earning the support of Jeff Bezos at Amazon and Tim Cook at Apple.

The issue is far more straightforward than the complex dilemma posed by North Korean missiles. American diplomats abroad have always spoken about the need to 

safeguard human rights, and DACA is all about human rights. While there are grey areas in the debate over admitting foreign refugees, few Americans wish to see children turned away at the 

border.

Zuckerberg said he wanted a government that cherishes the Dreamers. “Many have lived here as long as they can remember,” he wrote. “Dreamers have a special love for this country because they can’t take living here for granted. They understand all the opportunities they have and want nothing more than the chance to serve their country and their community. And Dreamers deserve that chance.”

The Obama administration initiated DACA in 2012. It allows illegal immigrants who arrived as minors renewable two-year grace periods during which their deportation is deferred, perhaps indefinitely. Meanwhile they are eligible for work permits. The term “Dreamers” derives from the protective legislation known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM).

Trump, while professing his admiration for the Dreamers and insisting he merely wants improvements in the legislation for their sake, has falsely claimed that scrapping DACA would have no deleterious effect on business. People in industry are pointing out the valuable role these people play in business and particularly in companies producing technological innovations. Youngsters without the usual privileges of American birth are ready to work harder to earn those privileges, they say. Their numbers include scientists and engineers who are contributing greatly to America’s stature and stability. But now Trump has left them with an uncertain future.

DACA covers hundreds of 

thousands of young immigrants. It facilitates the issuance of social security numbers and work permits to them. It has made life far easier for many talented, hard-working people. Trump’s protectionist brand of nationalism, though, requires that all immigrants, regardless of the circumstances of their arrival, be scrutinised, challenged and preferably returned to the lands of their forebears. It was the rallying call of his campaign, it is the hypocritical pillar of current White House policy, and notably – in a country founded and built by immigrants – it conveniently extends only a few decades into the past.