Trump, DACA & The Art of the Deal

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an Obama-era initiative that grants recipients legal working rights and protection from deportation to eligible illegal immigrants. Only those who were brought to the US as children, have resided in the US since 2007, finished or are in school/armed forces and have no significant criminal record were eligible for relief under the initiative. Thus, this ensures that the 800,000 people in receipt of the program, also known as the “dreamers”, are in fact hard working and law abiding residents. Given the extensive requirements that need to be met in order to be covered by DACA, it is hard to see why anyone would oppose it.

Donald Trump’s revocation of DACA this month threw the lives of these 800,000 people into turmoil; they are all far from certain about their futures. In fact, a White House ‘talking points memo’ advised dreamers to begin planning their exit from the US during the remainder of their time protected by DACA. The memo states that “The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible.” Basic inference would lead you to the conclusion that the White House has no faith in Congress to replace the program and is instead taking precautions to avoid having to arrest or deport former beneficiaries.

But why scrap it? Seeing as all those covered by DACA are good people, no harm is done. DACA actually has a positive effect on the economy too. Even Trump repeatedly assured dreamers that they need not worry on his campaign trail, stating that he loves them and that the issue is one close to his heart. Trump also made other assurances on the campaign trail, though: his beloved wall, the cornerstone of his campaign. The president’s border security objectives would be met with much less difficulty if he had the support of the Democrats, which is where DACA comes in.

Trump has been working with the Democratic leadership to ensure they do not filibuster and kill the appropriations bill that guarantees funding for the wall and increased border security measures. In exchange for this, he will offer protection from deportation to the dreamers. He is using them as bargaining chips, and some people are rightfully furious at the Democratic Party for working with him.

Realistically, they have no other choice. Trump has cleverly placed the issue in the hands of a broken, gridlocked Congress, fully aware that it has struggled with this particular issue for over a decade. Only a fool would believe that the Republicans and Democrats will suddenly shake hands and work together for a solution before March, which limits the Democrats’ options. This means that if Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (congressional leaders of the Democrats) do not work with Trump, they leave these 800,000 dreamers alone, shattering the lives of countless families and individuals alike.

The economic impact would be substantial as well; DACA deportations could cost over $200 billion to the US economy in lost productivity and tax income, not to mention the cost of enforcing these deportations. Let us be honest here, these people are not going to just get up and leave behind the lives they have built over the years. The majority of them will go to the underground economy (worth an estimated $2 trillion) for work. They will stop paying taxes; they will have to drop out of college; they will have to survive uninsured; but most of all, they will have to start living their lives in the dark, constantly looking over their shoulder for fear of deportation.

If DACA is repealed with no solution, the Democrats will take the hit; Trump’s base will be invigorated by the tough stance on illegal immigration, while the Democrats will take the blame for the economic and humanitarian problems that arise. Trump has effectively backed them into a corner with no win in sight. It is essentially a lose/lose situation for the blues, one that does not really affect Trump’s popularity amongst his voter base.

DACA is indubitably a massive overreach of executive power. It also acts as a tremendous motivator for foreigners to illegally immigrate their families to the US. It has a lot of issues associated with it, and arguably, Trump is right to rescind the program and force Congress to deal with the issue. But this is not the way to go about it. Credit to the White House, this is an effective political play, albeit a heartless one with far greater drawbacks than benefits.

There are over 800,000 people whose livelihoods depend on this initiative. Its impact on the economy is positive. Those covered by it are good people who are vetted before being granted legal status. Instead of repealing DACA and playing politics with a mere 6 month notice, the Democrats, Republicans and the White House should work together to pass meaningful immigration reform law. A number of states have passed their own versions of the landmark DREAM Act, and it is about time the Federal government does the same.

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Addicted to politics, news and debate. Unfortunate knack for misplaced sarcasm and jest during the most inappropriate of times. Currently studying International Politics at City, University of London.