The decision today by the administration of President Donald Trump to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an assault on the dreams and hopes of as many as 800,000 young people and is inconsistent with the values of this Nation. DACA participants – Dreamers – came to the United States as children. They work, go to school, raise families and contribute to the richness and health of our community. The United States is their home, often the only home they have known.
The termination of DACA will upend their lives. Dreamers will lose their place in school, become ineligible to work and vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace. We have represented immigrant workers – documented and undocumented – and know the difference that status makes. The loss of status will force Dreamers into the shadows to avoid deportation to a country that is foreign to them. Their many contributions to our economy, tax system, and culture will be lost.
This decision takes place against the backdrop of a broader assault on immigrant communities. In recent weeks, the Department of Justice has cut funds from cities that have attempted to create a relationship of trust between police and immigrant communities through sanctuary policies. Joe Arpaio’s conviction for contempt of court for refusing to stop practices that discriminate against Latinos was wiped away with a pardon, sending a message that Latino rights are less in the eyes of the President than the rights of others. There has been a dramatic increase in the detention of immigrants and a worsening of detention conditions leading to suffering, and in some cases, to avoidable deaths. And the rhetoric about the criminality of immigrants and the need for a wall has normalized hate.
We have already seen the painful effects of the President’s hateful immigration rhetoric and actions. Since January 20, dramatically fewer undocumented workers are calling for assistance or visiting our workers’ rights clinics because they fear deportation for speaking out. Indeed some clients have declined to move forward in fighting injustices at work because they do not want to risk their employer calling ICE.
We are proud to stand with immigrant communities, those long established and those just arriving. The history of immigration policy in the United States has a shameful record of racial discrimination. DACA was a bright light in that darkness. It should be preserved as a model of welcome.