Donald Trump, DACA and the Arguments Being Made For and Against Immigration Reform

Wednesday night President Trump told reporters that he’s open to creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, after 10 to 12 years.

This statement comes after the president rejected a bipartisan immigration deal that included a similar solution for the Dreamers.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has allowed about 800,000 Dreamers living in the United States who came here illegally as children to access things like higher education and drivers licenses. And as of last week, it had become a bargaining chip in the budget debate last week.

“Tell them not to be concerned, OK?” Trump said of DACA recipients Wednesday. “Tell them not to worry about it. We’re going to solve the problem. Now, it’s up to the Democrats, but they should not be concerned.”

The government shut down after Democrats refused to vote for a spending bill without finding a solution for DACA. The shutdown ended on Tuesday with Republicans pledging to revisit the Dreamers and broader immigration reform.

Senate Moves To End U.S. Shutdown, Sets Up Immigration Fight
Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, speaks with members of the media outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Jan. 22, 2017. Congress voted to end the U.S. government shutdown after three days by passing a temporary spending bill, prolonging the fight over a politically charged immigration proposal for at least another three weeks.Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Aaron P. Bernstein—Bloomberg via Getty Images

DACA has been in the headlines since September, when President Donald Trump announced he would not renew the program, saying that former President Obama overstepped his executive authority in creating it. Trump left it up to Congress to find a permanent solution for the young people unsure whether they will face deportation when the program, which he has called “illegal amnesty” on the campaign trail, expires on March 5.

Getting Congress to compromise on anything is a difficult task. Here are the arguments about the future of the DACA program from lawmakers on both sides of the debate.

But first, it’s important to point out that there are two main questions at hand in the ongoing debate: First, there’s disagreement over whether DACA itself is a program worth saving. If it were discontinued, there’s also the matter of whether the U.S. should replace it with another program that grants protected status to children brought here as undocumented immigrants.

The argument for why DACA is good

Proponents argue that allowing people who came to the U.S. as children — a decision outside of their control — and grew up here to participate in the job market and contribute to the economy is a benefit for everyone.

The program allows Dreamers to obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in college, find legal employment, pay income taxes, and serve in the military without fear of sudden deportation at a time when it’s harder than ever before to be legally recognized in the U.S.

Supporters of DACA see it as an attempt to bridge the gap between the reality of undocumented individuals living and working in the U.S. and the laws meant to shape immigration and the lives of immigrants.a

The argument for why DACA is bad

Republicans have long claimed that setting up the program was an overreach of the Obama Administration.

DACA keeps recipients from being deported through deferred action, which has to be approved every two years, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship.

Opponents of DACA claim that a legislative solution is a better option than renewing the program.

However, previous bipartisan replacements for DACA have been undermined by far-right politicians who demand stricter reforms on both legal and illegal immigration.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is a hard-line conservative on immigration and has emphasized the other issues important to Republicans. He tweeted Wednesday about the need for more secure borders and an end to chain migration to be included in any DACA agreement.

This view has been reiterated by the White House, though the president himself has made contradicting statements several times.

The argument for why DACA should stay

Thousands of people could lose their jobs if DACA is permanently rescinded, according to the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

It would also leave the more than 700,000 Dreamers in a state of uncertainty about their futures and the possibility of deportation.

U.S. Congress Wrangles With Agreement To Solve Government Shutdown
Pro DACA supporters protest outside the Capitol Hill on January 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. The U.S. government is shut down after the Senate failed to pass a resolution to temporarily fund the government through February 16 on January 21, 2018 in Washington, DC.Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Tasos Katopodis—Getty Images

DACA recipients had to openly identify themselves and their parents as undocumented immigrants in order to be covered by the program. Permanently ending the protections promised to those individuals comes with substantial risk. Many say they would live in fear of being targeted by U.S. immigration agents. It’s not lost on them that there has been a recent increase in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

All the information provided to the government by DACA applicants would remain in the department’s system, according to a Department of Homeland Security official.

Current estimates say as many as 983 undocumented people could lose their protected status each day beginning March 6 if Congress fails to find a solution before the deadline. It would be an unprecedented move by lawmakers to strip a generation of people raised in the U.S. of official recognition and force them back into living as unauthorized immigrants.

The argument for why DACA should end

Perhaps surprisingly, not everyone in favor of ending DACA is ultra conservative when it comes to immigration policy. Supporters of ending the program say that could give lawmakers the opportunity to develop comprehensive immigration reform, rather than trying to solve the issue with executive orders, patchwork local legislation, and Department of Homeland Security policies.

However, while it’s true that members of Congress believe creating reforms through the legislative process is the best way to craft new immigration policy, that’s the only common ground for some.

A bipartisan deal on immigration reform created by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) was derailed when some of these lawmakers showed up to the meeting and President Trump referred to Haiti and other African nations as “shithole” countries.

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