From the Daily: Congress must protect DACA recipients

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 6:58pm

Anti-Latinx, pro-Trump graffiti was found on the Rock at the corner of Hill and Washtenaw on Sept. 1, defacing what Assisting Latinos to Maximize Achievement, a Latinx student organization, had recently painted. Three days later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the current administration would terminate former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The decision would retract the immigration status of some 800,000 DACA recipients — 90 percent of whom identify as Hispanic or Latinx. That night, University President Mark Schlissel and Provost Martin Philbert sent an email expressing disappointment with the White House’s decision, emphasizing this decision’s weight on our campus. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board believes that President Donald Trump’s handling of DACA is unacceptable, and we call on Congress to pass legislation to stop DACA recipients from being deported, and work toward a structurally better solution for DACA recipients.

Detractors of DACA, which gave work permits and some protections against deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, view it as executive overreach and see a termination of the program as a return to rule of law. Additionally, Trump’s decision was spurred in part because 10 states had threatened to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration if it didn’t repeal the program. However, the context of the decision implies that the president’s stance on the issue was fueled purely by political considerations, rather than a firm resolve to provide a long-term solution for DACA recipients.

Many defenders of the immigration policy have made strong cases on the potential economic downfalls of deporting DACA recipients — arguing they contribute much to the nation’s economy and many are either pursuing degrees in higher education or serving in the armed forces. However, the humanitarian implications of Trump’s repeal are even more pressing.

DACA recipients were children when they immigrated to the United States and didn’t have a choice in the matter. They grew up in this country and are American in every sense if not by law. As such, they do not have connections in their parents’ homeland. Deporting DACA recipients would result in sending them to foreign lands they have never known. Many would be sent back to countries where they have no homes or jobs; it would completely uproot them from their American lifestyles.

University of Michigan students would be naive to believe rescinding DACA would not have an impact on their community. There are about 6,430 people who receive DACA protections in Michigan, some of whom are Ann Arbor residents, University students or both, and their deportation would be cruel. The University has vocalized its commitment to protecting undocumented students through policies like not inquiring about students' citizenship status. Still, Trump’s decision would directly endanger the immigration status of students on our campus.

DACA was never meant to be a permanent fix for undocumented children. Enacted in 2012 by executive order, DACA was supposed to be a bandage solution until Congress could provide a permanent, legislative solution. DACA recipients were still required to reapply for the program every two years, with no clear path outlined regarding the transition to citizenship. Furthermore, as it was an executive order, the program was always vulnerable to easy repeal by future administrations.

Following the president’s decision to terminate DACA, Congress now has six months to provide a solution for DACA recipients. Now, Congress has the opportunity to create a more sustainable pathway to citizenship, something it has not been able to do in the five years since the program began.

There are currently three proposed pieces of legislation put forward in Congress that could be potential solutions. The Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy Act, the Recognizing America’s Children Act and a 2017 version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. Any of these bills would provide some sort of legislative protections from deportation to DACA recipients. We call on Congress to pass one of these bills, or something similar, to defend DACA recipients.

The decision to repeal DACA has the potential to affect the lives of nearly a million Americans and must not be taken lightly. The decision shakes a foundational pillar of the nation’s future, and the actions to follow in the next few months will play a huge role in determining the fate of DACA recipients. We must remember that we are dealing with human lives — not numbers or statistics.

Resources for DACA students may be found on the FAQs page of the University’s Public Affairs and Internal Communications website. Central Student Government has also posted information on social media relevant to certain DACA students able to renew their benefits. Independent law offices have also promised to aid in the financial and logistical difficulties with renewing their current status.