Our Opinion: Trump's decision on Dreamers diminishes America

Yesterday, President Trump made the long-awaited announcement that his administration would begin to wind down the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) — ending the protections enjoyed by undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, came of age in this country and are not responsible for their lack of American citizenship. After a six-month delay — during which no new applications will be accepted — the renewable two-year permits that "Dreamers" (as they have been dubbed) have relied upon to avoid deportation will be allowed to expire.

While the president promised during his campaign that he would do away with DACA, he has been equivocal about the humanitarian aspects of sending young people who were virtual Americans in language, culture and education back "home" to countries they could not even remember, not to mention splitting up families. The six-month delay, presumably, is to allow Congress to come up with some kind of equitable solution. While that would ordinarily be the optimal and correct action for a president to take, the current make-up of that body and the unlikelihood of its resolving the matter smacks of cynicism and a desire to pander to the base rather than seek a just outcome.

This decision represents a diametric change in the way this country officially views its own identity as a refuge and haven for supplicants from abroad. If ever anyone deserved to be granted permanent residency in the United States, it would be the Dreamers, many of whom arrived here with their parents before their earliest memory. To qualify for DACA, they must be either in school or have graduated high school, and have had no serious run-ins with the law. Many have no accent, they have played in Little League, they have been Scouts. Their lack of citizenship is, in effect, a technicality — but the current poisonous political landscape has made the idea of easily correcting this glitch untenable.

Mr. Trump's expedient decision reverberates all the way to the local level, affecting human beings in a horrifyingly direct way. In Massachusetts, roughly 9,000 people are recipients of DACA. In Berkshire County, for example, where the exact number of recipients is unknown — fear of being deported due to yesterday's action has prompted BCC Dreamers to confer a measure of guardianship over their children to Eleanore Velez, coordinator of the college's multicultural center, whose office works with them. The uncertainty has caused families untold psychological and emotional trauma.

As a practical matter, Dreamers have, in many cases, completed their education, and some hold advanced degrees; it is absurd and counterproductive, after having trained them, for this country to deny itself the fruits of their intellects and ambition, all in the cause of appealing to the aggrieved nativists who make up the Trump base.

Dreamers are not foreigners; they are members of our national community, certainly as much as our own ancestors were when they immigrated. This policy is not only unconscionable, it diminishes all of us as Americans. And as a people whose core principle is that we rule ourselves, we do have a recourse: to convince our representatives in Congress to reverse this cruel, senseless decision.


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