As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump successfully tapped into voters’ frustration about the country’s broken immigration system. While it is still unclear how the president-elect will resolve the issue, immigration opponents are pressing him to consider repealing the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that enables many migrants to become productive economic players. Giving into these pleas to use executive fiat will further marginalize the important role of the legislative branch. Instead, Trump should utilize his deal-making skills to work with Congress on a more comprehensive immigration reform.
Enacted in 2012, DACA permits children of undocumented parents to work and study in the U.S. on a temporary basis. DACA also stayed the deportation of those who benefit from the DREAM Act, a law providing conditional residency for immigrants with no felony convictions or significant misdemeanors who are enrolled in school, graduated from high school, or are enlisted in the military.
With Trump’s election, DREAMers are afraid that the policy that offered them the opportunity to achieve their dreams in their new homeland could soon be overturned. Take the case of Diana Chacon, a DACA recipient originally from Lima, Peru, who is studying in college with hopes of attending law school. “DACA changed my life,” Chacon recalls. “It allowed me to be involved in school more, spend more time doing my class work assignments, spend more time applying for programs, and just get involved in my community in general.”
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During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump brought immigration to the forefront of the public debate, and for good reason. Our immigration system is in dire need of improvement. Millions of undocumented immigrants are currently living in the shadows with neither an accessible path toward legal status nor clarity about what lies ahead for them under a new administration.
Trump has an opportunity to fulfill his campaign promise and improve America’s broken immigration system while allaying the concerns of his political adversaries. With the nation still torn after a hard-fought election, he should demonstrate his intention to be a unifier by taking steps to protect vulnerable immigrants. In particular, he should allow industrious, nonviolent immigrants to stay in the country and pursue a more permanent status as part of a broader comprehensive reform package. That way, he can focus on true national security threats at the border without jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of peaceful, productive immigrants working toward a brighter future.
The major looming question is how the Trump administration will approach the immigration policies that President Obama put in place by executive order. If these programs are terminated without replacement, millions of immigrants with no criminal history could face the threat of deportation. Lately, though, Trump has shied away from his hardline campaign rhetoric and recently expressed interest in extending the protections President Obama granted via executive order under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
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As a man fond of deals, President-elect Donald Trump can appreciate that he controls the fate of one of the largest political deals in recent history. Once he assumes office on Jan. 20, he’s expected to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, issued by President Obama in June 2012.
That executive action directed the Department of Homeland Security to defer deporting illegal immigrants under 30 who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, had not been convicted of a crime and were enrolled in school or the military.
If he wants to be the ultimate deal-maker, Trump should keep the action in place and signal to investors that the American economy is ready for a new boom.
Why would someone seen as an immigration hard-liner ever consider keeping this action in place?
As an employer of tens of thousands of people, Trump understands the economics of mass deportation and the value of the people who’ve been in the country as illegal immigrants.
“They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told Time magazine.
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