September 6, 2017

EDITORIAL: It’s on Congress to Protect America’s Dreamers

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On Tuesday, the Trump administration decided to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — otherwise known as DACA — in an unfortunate manifestation of a familiar pattern for this White House. This sequence of events would have embarrassed any previous administration but is now quite normal: a controversial proposal is floated, the president appears to vacillate on the issue seemingly up until the date of the announcement, and then he makes the wrong decision, despite Jared and Ivanka’s extensively leaked efforts to convince him to do otherwise.

DACA, enacted in 2012 under President Obama, extended protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of residents who were brought to America as minors by their parents. After today’s decision, the fates of up to 800,000 DREAMers across the country hang in the balance. The administration’s callous disregard for both the livelihoods of those affected and the economic impacts of such a shift in policy is cruel and deserves to be denounced in the strongest terms.

Demonstrators march from Lafayette Park towards the White House to protest the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Washington, Sept. 5, 2017. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

Demonstrators march from Lafayette Park towards the White House to protest the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Washington, Sept. 5, 2017. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

The announcement comes on the heels of the president’s direction to Congress, issued on Twitter, to “get ready to do your job-DACA!” On this particular issue, we agree with the president: Congress should do its job by immediately passing legislative protections for DACA recipients when they return from recess this September. Over the past three weeks, Republicans and Democrats from across the political spectrum have issued statements supporting DACA recipients and encouraging the president to continue the program. Now that the president has acted, it is time for those well-meaning statements from congressmen and senators to become well-doing legislation.

Congress can act now to codify DACA protections as law, granting current recipients peace of mind and establishing a permanent infrastructure for others to come out of the shadows. Already Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced the 2017 DREAM Act, which legislates protection for DACA recipients. Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) are cosponsoring similar legislation in the House. Although there are only 12 working days scheduled for Congress this September, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) must find the time to support such legislation as well.

If Rep. Reed truly cares about stimulating economic growth, he must support DACA protections; the economic impact of doing away with DACA will be substantial, costing the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade, and New York millions of dollars annually. Over 90 percent of DACA recipients are currently employed, including tens of thousands in New York, and a rescission of DACA will only cause pain to our nation and our state’s pocketbooks.

But beyond its economic implications, Trump’s shameful decision demonstrates a lack of basic decency and empathy.  Brought here through no fault of their own — often unaware of their immigrant status until their teenage years — DREAMers have made the best out of their lives in America. Many of them know no home but the land of the free, and their willingness to grow, work and contribute under extraordinary circumstances should be an inspiration to us all. Rep. Reed, one of 12 siblings and raised by a single mother, knows intimately what it is like to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps. He should recognize the energy and affection for America that Dreamers have as the same energy and affection that propelled him to the halls of the United States Congress. If he has any doubt about that, he should discuss it with his fellow New Yorker, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), who grew up in this country undocumented and now proudly represents the people of New York’s 13th congressional district on Capitol Hill.

Politicians have long discussed immigration reform, but never has the need for action been greater than it is now, as an uninformed, capricious and vindictive president embarks on his quest for a more isolated, homogeneous and inhospitable America. Rep. Reed, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand: the people of Ithaca, the people of New York and the people of America are counting on your strong leadership now. Stand with President Pollack and the Cornell community against this action. Do not disappoint them.