“Why would he do this?” is something I have been asked too many times since the Trump administration decided to phase out the DACA program. It is a question with merit and it doesn’t take a government student like myself to understand that it was an entirely political move. Political, in the negative sense of the word that is used by most people today who abhor politics because they associate it with lies, pretentiousness and prodigality. President Trump’s move is political because its grounds on economic vitality, general welfare and patriotism are fallacious. The facts are that the persons whose lives are at stake with this policy contribute significantly to our economy, collectively have no criminal record and, most importantly, are just as American as any other student at The University of Texas.
It seems pretty simple to understand that when nearly 800,000 people are employed, they will contribute substantially to a country. A study by the Center for American Progress (CAP) supports this by stating that the loss of jobs currently held by DACA recipients will cost the US about $460 billion in GDP over 10 years, while locally, Texas would take a $6.1 billion annual hit in GDP. Any guess who has to take care of making up for a loss like this? The American worker and taxpayer. And it’s not like we have 800,000 people lined up ready to fill every position left by a DACA recipient, positions which CAP states are mostly in specialized fields such as tech and education, especially not at a rate of 7,234 jobs lost per week. What’s more, the average cost of deportation for one person in 2016 was about $10,000. Multiply that number by 800,000 and try not to fall out of your seat.
As for an appeal to safety and ‘law and order,’ ending DACA also has no grounds. While rhetoric from the hard-right may paint a picture of undocumented immigrants as “killers, drug dealers, and rapists,” DACA recipients are not permitted to have anything resembling a criminal record. This same idea came up when the Texas Legislature was debating Senate Bill 4, which, among other things, would have allowed university police officers to inquire about students’ immigration status upon detainment. The logic simply isn’t there. If a person is living in a situation where their entire lawful purpose is to obtain an education, serve in the military and/or work, why would they even consider committing a crime? If anything, DACA recipients are held to a higher moral standard than the average American.
What’s more, an assertion that DACA is “unconstitutional amnesty to ‘illegal aliens’” is also completely false. Amnesty implies that a crime was forgiven, and since we are having this conversation, it is evident that the crime of being a six-year-old child who follows their parents has not been forgiven. In addition, DACA was not ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015. While not considered amnesty nor unconstitutional, DACA was also never a panacea for this incredibly painful issue. DACA just showed America what can happen when 800,000 young red, white and blue-blooded Americans — who grew up pledging their allegiance to our flag, who sit next to us in class, who saved lives when Harvey hit and who have built their entire lives here — are allowed to thrive. Past an economic argument, this is an issue of humanity and moral consciousness. Allies are needed now more than ever.
The Trump administration’s policy of ‘America First’ is not reflected in ending DACA. In fact, with the overall cost to the American taxpayer and workforce, it stymies the country’s prosperity. This decision, coming at a time when our state is rebuilding after natural devastation, does not put America first. It further divides our country between left and right, and puts in front a political agenda designed to send marginalized people back into the shadows. President Trump claimed earlier this year that he would treat DACA recipients with “heart” — this decision shows just how fickle he is. Jeff Sessions said it best: “Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty and human suffering.”
Peña is a government junior. He serves as deputy director for District 7 of the League of United Latin American Citizens, and as co-director of the Student Government State Relations Agency.