Donald Trump has promised that on his first day in office, he will dismantle the lives of 664,607 young people. They haven’t broken any laws. In fact, they have all been carefully vetted by Homeland Security.
Many millions of other lives will be impacted by a Trump presidency, of course. But this particular group will be will be easy targets. They are currently enjoying protection offered via an Executive Order by President Obama. An Executive Order that Trump promises to reverse. On Day 1.
Most of them graduated from US high schools, and hundreds of thousands of them attended US colleges. One recently passed the difficult NY State Bar exam the first time he took it, successfully fought for the right to be admitted to the NYS Bar. Others are public school teachers and nurses and construction workers and entrepreneurs and college students and sales clerks and plumbers.
They are in. their 20’s and 30’s. They are raising their families in US cities and suburbs and small towns and rural communities. They juggle work schedules with childcare and soccer practice. Many of them drop their children off at the same elementary schools they attended as kids. Some still live with their moms and dads, as so many millennials do. But since they can work legally, and their parents can’t, most they substantially to the household expenses. When they open their paychecks, they scan how much has been taken out for federal and local taxes and FICA and Medicare.
According to Trump’s plan, ICE officials will enter their homes and (humanely) remove them. Children will cry. Spouses will protest. Neighbors will watch from their windows. Some children will be left with a single parent. Some children with no parent at all. Some kids will be shipped off to live with grandma, while others will go into foster care. And some children, all US citizens, will be apprehended too. Pulled out of school, out of their homes, and placed in detention centers (prisons) while waiting to be shipped off to a country they have never known.
For many of the 664,607 human beings, the country they will be sent to is a country they do not know. Many of them arrived in the US as young children. Infants or toddlers. For them, the US is the only home they have ever known.
This Executive Order, known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), allows a certain group of teens and young adults who were brought to the US as children, usually by their parents, to apply for a temporary stay of deportation. They had to come forward. Fill out forms to submit to Homeland Security, disclosing all of their personal information, as well as information about their families. In exchange, successful applicants were granted temporary work authorization, the opportunity to attend college, and protection against deportation.
Now please understand. DACA was not a solution. It was a temporary fix. These individuals are not citizens. They are not even eligible for a green card, or permanent residency. They can’t vote. They can’t even buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or get federal financial aid for college. Young men are required to register with the Selective Service. But they can’t serve in the military. They go to work and pay their taxes. And wait for comprehensive immigration reform.
They exist in limbo.
A few years after issuing the original DACA in 2012, President Obama expanded the program. The original requirements were very restrictive in terms of dates of arrival and ages of applicants. Even Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas was left out of the original DACA. He arrived from his native Philippines as a child, and didn’t even know he was undocumented until he tried to get a driver’s licence. A talented student, he grew into an exceptional writer, who went on the win the highest honor offered to American journalists in 2007. In 2011, in an essay in the New York Times Magazine section, he revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant. But he was too old to be eligible for the original DACA. He is not among the original 664,607 human beings protected under this order. But Obama’s expanded DACA would have included him, and millions of others like him
Along with the expanded DACA, Obama issued another Executive Order, known as DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. Under this initiative, millions of immigrants would be eligible to come out of the shadows. Pay taxes. Get drivers licences. Become the contributing members of society that they longed to be.
Expanded DACA and DAPA faced numerous legal challenges by republicans. Most of the challenges were considered frivolous, and were thrown out. One, out of the state of Texas, challenged the order based on a technicality related to how long it was listed in the Federal Register prior to implementation. It won in the lower courts, and moved up to the Supreme Court shortly after Justice Scalia’s death. The court, short one judge, tied, 4 to 4. It will have to be heard again once the court is full again.
We NEED comprehensive immigration reform. But in the absence of any legislation, whoever is elected President will need to rely on Executive Orders to fix the huge flaws in the existing laws. Since the last attempt at immigration legislation was passed in 1996, each and every President has issued Executive Orders to try and fill in the gaps.
Hillary Clinton has promised to renew the original DACA. And the Expanded DACA and DAPA will go before the Supreme Court again after she appoints a new Justice.
Donald Trump has promised the scenario above.
Photo by Bruce Armstrong
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