On Sunday, August 3, President Donald J. Trump made his most disturbing action yet as head of state. Beyond surrendering his moral authority after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, and ignoring our global responsibilities by pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, Trump has now made his most direct and impactful attack on the lives of the innocent. Rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program under the cowardly guise of wanting to undo some of Obama’s executive overreach (though Trump has proven repeatedly that he has little regard for and is often frustrated by the limits of presidential power) is a move that can only be described as cruel.
President Trump claimed in a statement delivered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on September 5, 2017, that the Obama era policy was responsible for a, “Massive surge [of] young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country.” Neither of these are true, as according to the Border Patrol; the surge in minors crossing the border in 2012 actually began months before DACA was announced, and the rate of increase remained constant throughout 2013. Furthermore, unlike the narrative the White House is pushing, only 0.3 percent of DACA recipients are accused of criminal behavior, and they are twice as likely to start a business compared to the national average, according to the Center for American Progress. DREAMers’ often attacked youth is actually an important benefit to the US economy, as our demographic trends suggest our ageing population and low natural birth rate will hinder future growth.
The acronym can make DACA seem like some rare and small government program whose termination will not have a large effect. The reality is starkly different, because the status of many of the eight million illegal immigrants living in this country was not a choice. Picture a woman walking through the desert with barely any possessions, the only one of value swaddled in blankets on her back: her few month old infant. That baby is the reason she risks everything to come to a foreign country. That child will go to public school in the US all his or her life, knowing no other country but America. DACA allows that child, now older, to come out of the shadows, paying taxes and joining his or her nation with legal status.
Ending DACA means that those children, with no connection to their places of birth except stories from their parents, must live in fear. Fear that they will be apprehended and deported to a world they have never known. Terminating DACA is an assault on Americans. Not American citizens — although many affected by the DACA ruling are in the process — but it is an attack on Americans altogether. America has never been about one’s birthplace. We pride ourselves on being a melting pot of immigrant cultures, each of us adding our own flavor to our unique American stew. The one precursor to being an American is a desire to live in a democratic society where those who work hard can procure a secure future for their posterity, free from discrimination of any kind.
So how dare the President, who defended protesters attacking American values, now take a stand against the hard-working immigrants and their children who come to this country, abide by its laws, and pay taxes. Trump defended those who wanted to show solidarity with men who fought for the dissolution of our union. This was while he was attacking those who risk everything they know and love to protect that swaddle of blankets on their back. One of those groups describes the Americans I am proud to call my fellow countrymen, epitomizing what it means to be a citizen of this greatest country on Earth — and it is not the group waving swastikas.
This is not an issue that must separate Democrats and Republicans. This is a battle for the soul of America, and what it means to be an American. Rarely has there been such an urgency to overcome partisan politicking and do what conscience dictates. We must seize the opportunity to do what is right, for situations like this one — where the right course of action is blatantly obvious — are few and far between.