DACA and the DREAMers: It’s about ethics

On September 5, 2017, President Trump rescinded the DACA program and tossed the ethical conundrum to Congress:


The GOP Position

Trump and the GOP argue that we need to end the DACA program because it’s unconstitutional, because the executive branch, which oversees this program, is required to follow the immigration laws that Congress creates, and DACA disregards those laws. And, I agree that the DACA program does not enforce our current immigration laws.

My Position: It’s as much about ethics as it is about immigration law

Beyond the letter of the law, there is an ethical question that America needs to answer about the DREAMers, those children brought to the U.S. by their parents without proper immigration paperwork.  DACA covers people who entered the U.S. as children between about 1981 and mid-2007.  For decades, our government knew that parents were bringing their undocumented children into our country.  Instead of sending them home immediately, in compliance with our immigration laws, both Republican and Democratic governments for more than 20 years allowed these families to stay.

Their children attended U.S. schools, and grew up speaking English in addition to the language their parents spoke.  Our government allowed these families to make the U.S. their home. In 2012, recognizing that there were now a whole generation of children who had grown up in the U.S. but who could not legally hold a job in our country, President Obama created the DACA program.  Its scope was limited; it didn’t provide a path to citizenship or access to federal services. But, it did allow people who had been brought to the U.S. as children without documentation to 1) avoid deportation and 2) work legally in the U.S.

Hundred of thousands of young people signed up for DACA, believing that they could live a life in the country they called home, one where they could work legally and without fear of deportation. They renewed their applications every two years, finally able to plan for a better future…until September 5, 2017.

President Trump has ordered that the DHS no longer accept or approve DACA applications.  Trump indicates that DACA permits will begin to expire in March 2018, with the last DACA permit holders losing their status by September 2019.  When their DACA permits expire, the companies that employ these young people will have to let them go, or risk violating laws against hiring undocumented immigrants.  In addition, these young men and women may be deported at any time, from the country where they grew up to a country they may not even remember.

In my view, this is the ethical issue at the center of the DREAMer debate: It was our government’s policy for over 20 years to allow undocumented immigrant families to build a home here. It is the height of cruelty to take away the promise of the American Dream from these families after so many years of allowing them to live it.  For this reason, I support the Dream Act of 2017 (S.1615) and the American Hope Act of 2017 (H.R.3591).  The United States has a moral obligation to allow these families to continue to live their American dream.

DACA Background and Sources

If you’re new to DACA, here’s a quick video to get you up to speed.  And, these are the sources I used to create the video:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Immigration Law Center