The Recorder – Guest Column: The Immoral and Irrational Case Against DACA

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A gross injustice against young immigrants is slowly making its way through the courts. It is centered on the decision of a federal judge decision last year that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was ‘illegal’, a ruling that casts doubt on a program that gave tens of thousands of young people brought here as children a temporary and renewable stay of expulsion.

Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling allowed existing DACA recipients to apply for two-year renewals while the court case progresses on appeal, but it bars the approval of any new applications.

The case went to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where pleadings were heard last month and where a decision of this tribunal is expected this fall. It could well go to the Supreme Court of the United States.

When President Barack Obama created the program through executive action 10 years ago, he was responding to political and moral pressure stemming from legislative failures to enact meaningful immigration reform over several decades. The last major reform, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, allowed 2.9 million immigrants to advance on the path to citizenship.

Mr. Obama’s executive action has given tens of thousands of young immigrants the opportunity to emerge from the shadow of undocumented status and pursue opportunities in education, professional careers and civic participation.

Eddie Ramirez was brought to the United States by his parents from Mexico when he was about a year old, and the United States was his residence all his life. But when he heard about a new program called DACA as a teenager, he had to overcome significant fears to walk into a federal building, get his fingerprints, and apply. Taking these steps gave him the status to take advantage of paid work opportunities in college, win a scholarship to dental school, and ultimately start practicing as a dentist in Beaverton, Oregon. None of this would have been possible without DACA.

Indira Islands, a daughter of doctors who fled gang violence in rural Mexico, was brought to Georgia by her parents when she was 6 years old. at Delaware State University, a historically black institution. She went on to earn a master’s degree in public health from George Washington University, and will begin a fellowship with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute this month. Although DACA has opened doors for Ms. Islas, similar opportunities are rod for a younger sister due to the recent court ruling.

When one reflects on Justice Hanen’s ruling that President Obama overstepped his authority in creating DACA, one cannot help but wonder about the constricted moral vision behind the legal reasoning: turning a blind eye to the lives, hopes, and the talents of 590,000 young people who call this country home. A stunted ethical outlook is a major problem, but so is irrationality when considering the financial contributions that DACA recipients make each year (e.g., $9.4 billion in taxes alone) along with other markers showing the benefits DACA has provided to recipients and society as a whole – and the ultimate value of granting a pathway to citizenship.

At a time when many politicians seek political advantage by exploiting fears on migrants (the so-called “replacement theory” is just one manifestation), it is an ongoing challenge to create spaces where the truths about the benefits of DACA, immigration and pathways access to citizenship can be understood and understood. But the challenge, although immense, is not insurmountable and spaces can be created: in the courts, in legislative initiativesand in the culture at large. For their work, Dr. Eddie Ramirez, Ms. Indira Islas and so many hundreds of thousands of others deserve no less.

Andrew Moss, syndicated by voice of peaceis Professor Emeritus (English, Nonviolence Studies) at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

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