Five years ago, the U.S government began implementation of President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order deferring deportation for U.S. residents without papers who were brought here by their parents as children. The order came about after the proposed Dream Act, which would have given legal status to those same immigrant children, failed to pass Congress. In response, Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
The nearly 800,000 kids given a reprieve from deportation by DACA are our children. They attended our schools, played on our high school teams and starred in our school plays. They learned English and most speak it fluently. And they have citizen siblings born in the United States. They are as American as anyone born here.
Immigration laws should reflect the best interest of the country — in this case, our country. Last year, the Supreme Court was evenly split on the question of the president’s authority to defer deportation for specific groups of people now residing here. The case was not about the children whose status was protected five years ago but a more recent effort by Obama to protect their parents.
So at the moment, the legal question of what the president can do about immigration, broadly speaking, is up in the air, but will surely be revisited. Especially because 10 state attorneys general have come together to threaten President Donald Trump with a lawsuit to force his hand if he does not, by Sept. 5, rescind the policy still protecting young people brought to the United States as children.
Yet support for the Dreamers, as DACA recipients are known, is widespread. Nearly eight in 10 voters support allowing them to remain permanently in the country.
Setting aside for now the humanitarian and moral questions that arise from forcing young people with deep connections to the United States to leave, pragmatism tells us that mass deportation is economically self-defeating. These Dreamers are already fully assimilated and comprise an integral part of our economy. So to drive them away now, just when they are closing in on adulthood and a paying job, contributing to our economy and our tax base, seems motivated only by spite or bigotry.
Rather than respond to an arbitrary deadline intended to ram through a disastrous change in current policy, the president and Congress should work to achieve comprehensive reform that includes helping the Dreamers and others become permanent residents and eventually citizens. It’s the right thing to do.
Nancy K. Kaufman is chief executive officer of the National Council of Jewish Women.