NEW YORK – There’s massive surge of support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Donald Trump may end, forcing at least 800,000 recipients to be deported over two years, as their work permits expire. Those young men and women then would either be forced to leave the country, or join the shadow workforce, becoming officially illegal immigrants all over again.
The DACA program officially started on June 15, 2012, when the Obama administration announced that certain illegal immigrants who came to the US as children and met some guidelines – including being in school, or high school graduates, had served or were serving the military, had no criminal record, had a record of paying taxes and were not welfare recipients – may request consideration for a work permit, to be renewed every two years.
These individuals had to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and had to show they had come to the US before reaching 16th birthday. It allowed these immigrants to study and work without fear of being deported.
Trump had vowed to end the DACA program in his campaign speeches, but had demurred on the issue, saying he had compassion for DACA recipients, who had only known the US as their home.
However, reports said Trump has now decided to end the program.
Trump may find ending DACA a politically explosive move, though, as not only fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill, but a majority of Americans are in favor of retaining DACA, in some form or the other, if not give chance of permanent residency to DACA recipients.
Results from an NBC News/Survey Monkey poll released Thursday show that 64 percent of Americans support DACA.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday, in a radio interview, urged Trump to not tear up the program, reported CNN.
Responding to a question about DACA, on his hometown radio station WCLO in Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan said Congress was working on a legislative fix to preserve the problem.
“I actually don’t think he should do that,” Ryan said of Trump’s consideration of terminating the program. “I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.”
The Washington Post reported hundreds of business executives — from Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and other companies – have urged Trump to preserve DACA.
The national coalition on Thursday petitioned Trump to rethink his plans to scrap the program. Doing so would imperil the economy and jeopardize the futures of nearly 800,000 young people — 97 percent of whom are in school or in the workforce, they wrote.
“Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy,” the executives wrote. “With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.”
They have already submitted to extensive background checks. They pay income taxes. Without them, the economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions, the letter said.
The letter, organized by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us and signed by leaders of nearly 400 other companies, also urged Congress to pass legislation that would provide a permanent fix for the young undocumented immigrants.
Among the signatories are business magnate Warren Buffett, fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg, Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, and Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella wrote in a LinkedIn post that “smart immigration can help our economic growth and global competitiveness” in addition to creating more jobs for Americans.
“As I shared at the White House in June, I am a product of two uniquely American attributes: the ingenuity of American technology reaching me where I was growing up, fueling my dreams, and the enlightened immigration policy that allowed me to pursue my dreams,” he wrote. “As a CEO, I see each day the direct contributions that talented employees from around the world bring to our company, our customers and to the broader economy. We care deeply about the DREAMers who work at Microsoft and fully support them.”
Nadella added: “This is the America that I know and of which I am a proud citizen. This is the America that I love and that my family and I call home. And this is the America that I will always advocate for.”
NBC reported that many advocacy groups have pressed Trump to ignore the “arbitrary” deadline set by 10 attorneys general around the US to end DACA.
DACA advocates have been keeping a vigil at the White House since August 15. In New York this week, hundreds marched from Trump Hotel to Trump Tower chanting in favor of DACA. In New Jersey, a pro-DACA rally was held at New Jersey City University. Other groups have planned a march and rally on September 5 in Washington.
“This really is a crisis that was created by the administration itself and by the bullying and threats that have come from the Texas attorney general Paxton and the other attorneys general,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told reporters last week.
“Shame on the president for being bullied himself into threatening the DREAMers who have given so much to this country and are continuing to give so much,” Gupta said.
There was growing support in media for DACA.
Rex Huppke, writing in the Chicago Tribune, opined to “keep the dreamers, deport the Nazis,” noting that two-thirds of Americans support DACA, and a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 9 percent of the country — or about 22 million people — think it’s OK to hold “neo-Nazi or white supremacist views.”
A study out this week by the University of California, San Diego and the groups United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Center for American Progress reported that DACA recipients make “significant and positive” contributions to the U.S. economy, with 91 percent currently employed.
After receiving DACA, 69 percent move on to a better-paying job, and DACA recipients are starting businesses at a higher rate than native-born residents of the U.S., according to the report.
Fox News anchor and commentator Geraldo Rivera was another media luminary who took strong exception to Trump’s likely hit at DACA.
“If this program is revoked, then the all of the false statements up until now, false statements about the cruelty of Donald Trump will be true. If he, for no reason that I can see other than appealing to his base,” he said.
“The DREAM Act students, these are people that commit fewer crimes than citizens, they are people who have by requirement must be registered, they must be clean. They can’t collect any welfare payments. They must pay taxes. To throw them out for what? Who benefits from this?” Rivera asked, on a Fox News program.
He said 800,000 “innocent young people who now have become political footballs and their lives are totally disrupted. They’re living in fear now.”
Ending DACA will have economic repercussions too, with many experts warning that Trump’s proposed tax overhaul will not live up to expectations as the US struggles with an ageing population and rising health care costs.
If DACA ends, the impact will be felt across the US – universities will be hard hit as enrollment dips, businesses will lose young workers, and the treasury department will lose out on taxes.
There was also indication that the menace of stagnant job growth is hovering month after month, despite the growth in economy. Job growth lagged in August, with the economy adding a lower-than-projected 156,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticking up slightly to 4.4 percent.
If Trump ends DACA, Congress would be forced to act on immigration reforms. It would come at an awkward time for the administration, as it struggles with disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the looming issue of debt ceiling, and the ambitious tax overhaul.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)