By Irina Matiychenko, Director, Immigrant Protection Unit, New York Legal Assistance Group
In the wake of the recent election, millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States are uncertain about what their futures hold. In particular, those who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program fear that they will soon become eligible for deportation from the only country they have ever known.
I strongly urge President-Elect Trump to refrain from overturning the executive order that brought DACA into existence. Immigrants eligible for DACA, known as DREAMers after the failed federal DREAM Act, exemplify the American Dream. They should be the last people we as a nation choose to exclude.
DACA-eligible immigrants are young people who were born in another country but brought to the United States as young children, often by parents searching for a better life for their families. DREAMers were raised in the United States, attend schools here, and pay taxes here. They are educated; they speak English. They serve in our military. They have the same values and aspirations as natural-born citizens, they love their country, and they want an even better future for their children. In short, they are Americans.
While not giving them a path to citizenship, DACA provides a mechanism for these young DREAMers to receive work authorization, get social security cards and driver’s licenses, and live without the constant fear of deportation. It gives them legal status so that they can contribute to their country. With the stroke of a pen, the more than 700,000 DREAMers who have obtained DACA since 2012 could immediately lose their status, and the country would lose an important and valuable resource.
If the new administration chooses to repeal DACA, the consequences will be myriad and severe. Without the benefits of DACA, hundreds of thousands of immigrants will find themselves without the opportunity to continue their education, or to work and contribute to the economy. Overnight, these immigrants will be forced back into the shadows. The U.S. will lose billions of dollars in tax revenue.
The time is now to reassure DREAMers that the United States is and always has been a nation of immigrants. Punishing them for the actions of their parents is not only unfair. It’s un-American.