Talk of deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants was common on the campaign trail. So too were allusions to rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which provides close to 770,000 young people protection from deportation and work authorization.
Known as the DREAM students, they were brought here by the parents at a young age and did not break the law of their own volition. They are bright and talented contributors to the nation and its future leaders. They are Americans in everything but citizenship.
According to a study by the Center for Migration Studies of New York, these students are deeply embedded in U.S. society.
> 85 percent have lived in the United States for 10 years or more.
> 93 percent have at least a high school degree
> 43 percent attended college or graduated from college
> 89 percent are employed and paying taxes
> 91 percent speak English very well or exclusively.
To remove protections from this group is foolhardy and contrary to our best interests. If the national interest is served by supporting hard-working, intelligent young people and allowing them to flourish, then continuing the DACA program is the best way forward.
Pope Francis captures this sentiment well. “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity,” he wrote in 2014. “They are children, women and men who leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and being, but above all being more.”
These young immigrants are now part of our social fabric — they are in our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools. They have forged bonds with U.S. citizens who know them as people, not numbers. They are contributing their energies to the country and have fought for their rights and their right to be part of our nation. Some are serving in the U.S. military.
Should DACA be eliminated, some have called for churches and communities to protect them by not cooperating with immigration enforcement in the effort and by providing them sanctuary. I add my voice to that call.
Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Deporting these young people to a country they do not know is an injustice that threatens all of us, as it flies in the face of fairness and human decency. It would weaken our communities and diminish us as a nation.
President-elect Trump has stated that his Administration would begin deporting immigrants who have committed criminal offenses, broadly defined. However, he also stated that he would consider whether the remaining undocumented population should be allowed to stay, calling many of them terrific people.
It is clear from the evidence that DACA recipients fall into this category. Instead of creating fear and throwing their lives into disarray, President-elect Trump should continue the DACA program and protect these impressive young people. Such a step would go a long way in keeping America great.