On September 5th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. The program will be phased out and fully expire on March 5th, 2018. Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Trump had pledged to “immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration,” that has allowed nearly 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants to work and study without fear of being deported.
The government will no longer accept new applications from those qualified to apply for DACA, however, DACA participants will not be kicked off the program before their benefits expire. The Department of Homeland Security will continue to accept renewal applications for participants whose eligibility is set to expire within the next six months, until October 5th. The Trump administration has called on Congress to create legislation that could save the program within the six months before it expires.
But will the Republican-controlled Congress pass legislation to protect Dreamers? While some Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah have stood in support of “Dreamers” having called on the President to not rescind DACA, Republicans have repeatedly blocked similar legislation from passing for more than a decade. Lets not forget it was Republican officials from 10 states who, in June, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening to take legal action against the federal government if it did not end DACA by September 5th. The move had put the Trump administration in a predicament, kill DACA, which will now deprive 800,000 a chance to make their lives at home in the U.S., or defend it in court—where its chances of survival were slim. According to sources familiar with the discussions, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had already told Trump he considered DACA unconstitutional and would not have defended it in court.
Trump and his staff met for months to discuss the options that were available. Besides phasing out the program and ending the renewal of working permits granted through DACA, one option was to block new people from enrolling in the program. Another option was to try to strike a deal with Congress that could have kept DACA in exchange for funding for Trump’s border wall. But congressional aides had doubted Democrats would support it.
It’s clear Trump has had a hard time deciding what to do. At a press conference in February Trump admitted “the DACA situation is a very difficult thing for me as I love these kids, I love kids…and I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and, you know, the law is rough, it’s rough, very very rough.” Even before then, it almost seemed like Trump had had a change of heart when in a January 25th interview, he told ABC’s David Muir DACA recipients shouldn’t be worried. But up until the very end even his top aides were divided on the topic, with policy adviser Stephen Miller pushing to end DACA and his Chief of Staff—and former secretary of homeland security—John Kelly in favor of the program.
Trump had been under pressure from conservatives within his party who voted for him on his tough stance on immigration. His move to phase out DACA will likely be met with frustration from conservatives who had expected for the President to permanently end the program. But terminating a policy that has brought freedom and safety to almost a million people didn’t turn out as easy as he thought.
Besides the obvious cruelty of reversing the program, ending DACA comes at a great financial cost to the United States. Eighty-seven percent of DACA recipients are currently employed in the U.S., and, according to a new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, DACA recipients contribute $2 billion in state and local taxes annually, paying 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The report also notes that ending DACA will decrease state and local revenue by roughly $800 million a year. But the immediate impact of ending DACA and deporting recipients will cost the government an estimated $60 billion. Trump the businessman should have known ending DACA was not the smartest choice.
There is no question Trump’s decision to end DACA will come at a great financial cost to the U.S., but this cruel act works to punish young adults who were brought into this country, through no fault of their own, and are trying to make a living in the country they call home.