Donald Trump was tremendously vocal about his positions on immigration well before he was elected president of the United States. The rally cry of “Build That Wall!”—beloved by his supporters—quickly morphed into one of candidate Trump’s campaign slogans. In an attempt to woo the working class voters struggling for job security, Trump launched propaganda campaigns claiming immigrants “make it difficult for poor and working class Americans to earn a middle class wage.” Trump’s assault on the immigrant community didn’t stop there. From his mass deportation operations via ICE raids, the various Muslim travel bans he’s enacted, and the encouragement of the RAISE Act, immigrants within the United States no longer have an ally in the Oval Office.
On September 5, the president continued his attack on the immigrant community by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Since its establishment by the Obama administration in June 2012, DACA has provided 800,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors the opportunity to receive a renewable two-year deferment of deportation in order to enroll in college or legally secure a job, and to obtain a valid driver’s license. The decision to end DACA has left the so-called Dreamers terrified of the possibility of deportation. In response to Trump’s actions, Dreamers and DACA supporters have rallied together and protested in city streets, on college campuses, and in front of the White House.
In an effort to better understand next steps and the negative cost associated with rescinding DACA, I attended a panel discussion entitled “Immigration policy in Trump’s America” at the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution.
The three panelists, all immigration and homeland security experts, voiced their support for DACA and the challenges both Trump and the Dreamers face if Congress does not pass the 2017 Dream Act. (Whether it will be brought to a vote is unclear in the wake of the GOP immigration bill introduced yesterday.) Janet Napolitano, one of the panelists, is the president of the University of California and former secretary of Homeland Security. Three days after Trump’s announcement to rescind DACA, the University of California and Napolitano filed a lawsuit against the federal government. “The president’s decision is wrong as a matter of immigration policy and inconsistent with the country’s values,” Napolitano explained, highlighting the exorbitant administrative and financial burden placed on the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to deport 800,000 individuals. Trump’s plans to hire 15,000 new ICE agents will be a challenge, she contends, and will take five to ten years to complete in her estimation. Trump’s nonchalant attitude regarding immigrant deportation creates the perception that “you just flip a switch and it will happen,” Napolitano said. Beyond the administrative and financial costs, the real cost is the effect not just on the individual Dreamers, but on the broader family complex and the American families left behind.
While the feeling of anger and fear were palpable in the room, Carlos Guevara, Unidos US senior policy advisor, remains optimistic about DACA’s future. Guevara reminded everyone, “We must all come together and get it done,” referring to Congress passing the 2017 Dream Act. He urged the audience and the American people to think and talk about the toll that may take place on 800,000 youth and their families. Knowing that it will require a bi-partisan effort to pass the Dream Act and protect the Dreamers, Guevara said, “There is no better way to show the American people that we can come together and find a solution for these youth.”
The American Humanist Association strongly believes that regardless of ethnicity, gender, economic status, political affiliation, creed, religious beliefs or nonbelief, citizenship, sexual orientation, or gender identity, all individuals have universal human rights that must be respected and protected. As humanists, we must take action and stand in solidarity with immigrant communities and those who face the terrifying possibility of deportation.