By Shruti Appalla
The Trump Administration on Tuesday, 5th September announced its decision to rescind DACA or the ‘Dreamers’ Programme, that protects the children of illegal immigrants from deportation. The decision was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions who said, “This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens…Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch…Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed...the nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all can not be accepted.”
The move sent shockwaves across the nation and triggered a wave of anti-Trump protests by immigration rights’ activists.
What is DACA?
In 2011, the Dream Act—that provided a pathway to legal residency or citizenship to immigrants—failed to pass through Congress, despite the best efforts of the Obama Administration. Immigrant activists staged protests and participated in civil disobedience to prod their representatives. In response, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals(DACA) programme was implemented in 2012, that allowed foreign-born children of illegal immigrants to seek facilities like education and legal work permits. The recipients of DACA thus came to be known as ‘Dreamers’. DACA recipients must have no criminal record, proof they were brought to the US before age 16, and be under 31 when the programme was launched but at least 15 years old when applying. The application cost is around USD 500 and permits must be renewed every two years. The application and renewal process takes several weeks. DACA does not give beneficiaries legal US residency. Instead, the recipients get a reprieve from deportation and temporary permission to work.
According to a recent Pew Research report, about 790,000 young unauthorized immigrants have taken advantage of this programme since 2012.
What is the process of rescission?
Post the announcement, the Trump government will stop processing new applications under the DACA program. A slow winding down of the program will be undertaken. No applications for renewal of work permits will be accepted after October. Those eligible for DACA are registered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The rescission of the program means the government can easily identify this group of undocumented immigrants and target them for deportation.
Among the thousands affected, are a total of 5500 Indians and Pakistanis. 17,000 other Indians face the risk of deportation. This number comes from Suman Raghunathan of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a leading advocacy organization headquartered in New York. According to SAALT figures, 27,000 Asian Americans are covered under DACA and an additional 17,000 from India are eligible for DACA, which places India among the top ten countries for DACA eligibility.
Costs of rescinding DACA
According to John Kudak and Elaine Kamarck at Brookings Institution, the decision is fiscally irresponsible, functionally impossible, culturally insensitive, and politically unpopular. The human cost is mind-numbing. Thousands of families will be split up. Children will be deported to nations to which they have no association without any family or social support. If they do escape deportation, they will have to grow up as illegal occupants of a nation where they have resided all their life. They will be unable to afford education, rent and will work for lower wages. The scope of exploitation and trafficking increases manifold.
While speaking to reporters, Sessions said, “The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
Contrary to the statement, most DACA recipients are hard working individuals who have persevered under difficult circumstances to qualify for the jobs they occupy. They pay taxes while remaining ineligible for some of the same government benefits to which citizens are entitled, such as food stamps and Medicaid. Importantly, DACA recipients are an integral part of America’s cosmopolitan culture.
With the violence in Charlottesville, the rise of extremist right wing organizations, the backlash against H1B visas and the RAISE Act, America is looking down the side of a deep cliff. At risk of falling are 27,000 Asian Americans along with countless others. Their fate now lies in the hands of the Congress which has six months to come up with a legislative solution for DACA recipients.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt