Editorial: Repeal of DACA is a moral disaster

Lady Liberty’s light is flickering out.

The promise of the American dream is simpler than we sometimes make it out to be. It’s a reassurance, a sense of comfort. It’s the stability to plan for your future – to go to school and worry about grades and college applications. To find a job and plan for retirement. To buy a house, and a Netflix subscription. To fall in love.

Imagine living your whole life – or as long as you can remember – in the United States. It’s the only home you’ve ever known. Imagine you treat the country and its citizens with respect: working hard, paying your taxes, being an upstanding citizen.

Now imagine being told you’re no longer welcome here.

It’s a gut punch to the American dream, a slap in the face to the 800,000 Americans who rely on DACA to study and work and live free of fear.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was established by the Obama administration in 2012, and has enrolled almost a million people in the five years since. It aims to provide stability for the children of immigrants, many of whom have lived in the United States for well over a decade and know no other home.

DACA has been controversial since its inception, but its fundamental mission – to protect children from paying for the supposed sins of their parents – has widespread support.

Or perhaps not.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a joint statement on September 5 their plans to end the protections of DACA, effective in six months. Mr. Trump claimed that, “millions of Americans (are) victimized by this unfair system,” according to the New York Times. “(The program) denies jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs,” according to Sessions. Both ignored the estimated $280 billion dollar hit to the economy over the next decade with the deportation of DACA’s 800,000 beneficiaries.

Donald Trump has asked the Republican-controlled Congress to find a legislative solution. His plea rings hollow.

So too will the response of that Congress, I imagine. They had their chance to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, to guarantee a stable future in the United States for hundreds of thousands who’d earned that right, but even in a Democratic-controlled Senate the legislation couldn’t reach the 60-vote threshold. The DREAM Act’s wings were clipped by a Republican-caucus led by Sessions, who was quoted then as saying that, “this bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward to illegal activity.” Why should we have any reason to believe that the sentiment has changed?

Sessions has been transparent about what he believes. By ending DACA, Donald Trump has made it clear that he agrees.

Say what you will about the right of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States and be protected by its laws – their children should not be held to the same standard. They didn’t choose to leave their countries of origin and move to the United States – why should they be punished as if they did?

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are playing with the lives of 800,000 people, and for what?

What is there to gain politically from this? Who is satisfied by this development other than the racist, xenophobic core of Trump’s base? How does stripping away the right to a future in this country from 800,000 Americans make the country great again? What is the point, if not simply to be deliberately malicious?

If Donald Trump’s administration follows through with their plan to end DACA, if Congress can’t find a legislative solution to protect those who would be swept away from the only home they’ve ever known, then how much longer does Liberty’s light have?

Seems that soon it’ll flicker out, and go dark.

~ Fall 2017 Editorial Board