Our Opinion: A win for DACA, but fight continues
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday to reject the Trump administration's attempt to destroy the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was cause for celebration by America's immigrant community, including here in the Berkshires. ("Across Berkshires, a sigh of relief over DACA ruling," Eagle, June 19.) The Obama era program will not be safe, however, until Congress enacts true immigration reform.
DACA protects children under the age of 16 — the so-called "Dreamers"— when they were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents against deportation and allowed them to reapply for protected status every two years. To qualify, a Dreamer must have graduated high school, obtained a GED or served in the military, and have a clean record. These young people assimilated into America and had no connection, or lost what connection, such as language, they had, to their parents' native land.
DACA requires a leap of faith on the part of the estimated 650,000 Dreamers that acknowledging their status as the children of undocumented immigrants would not jeopardize their future in the U.S. This leap of faith was rewarded until President Trump turned his attention to the program as part of his broader anti-immigrant policy.
The argument brought by the administration's Department of Homeland Security that President Obama's executive action was illegal did not find favor in lower courts and eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in a 5-4 ruling, did not address the legality of DACA but called the Trump administration's assault upon it "arbritrary and capricious" because it did not follow the statutory regulations for repealing an executive order. The chief justice also faulted Homeland Security for failing to address the impact overturning DACA would have on thousands of young Americans. The agency's failure, wrote Justice Roberts, "raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercises that discretion in a reasonable manner."
Typically, President Trump made the ruling about him, declaring that the Supreme Court "doesn't like me." What the narrow majority of justices didn't like was the legally sloppy effort by the administration to end DACA without merit.
Dreamers have been in America long enough to become contributing members of society as doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professionals, which the chief justice pointed out in his written opinion. The Washington Post reported that thousands have been at the front lines of the COVID-19 response as doctors, nurses and first responders at the same time the Trump administration was seeking to throw them out of the country.
The president made it clear Friday that he will continue his war on Dreamers, and this will be a campaign issue in the fall. Ideally, next year, a nation's capital without a political grudge against immigrants will enact comprehensive immigration reform.
"The hope of most organizations that work with [Dreamers] is that they will be given a path to citizenship," said Ilana Steinhauer, executive director of Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires, to The Eagle's Chris Parker. "That's what we're going to be looking at toward the future." As it is unrealistic to seek to deport all undocumented aliens in the U.S., that path should be extended to all who have become contributing members of society.
The Dreamers should be a priority, however, because they are still in jeopardy even after the Supreme Court's welcome decision. They came out of the shadows because they want to become fully legal residents of the only country they have ever known. They should be rewarded for that action, and for their many contributions to the nation, not penalized by a mean-spirited White House playing political games with their lives.
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