In the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from being deported. There are currently around 800,000 people living in the U.S. under DACA. Many of them have been here for many years, which for some has been most of their lives. The policy was introduced five years ago, and is now under threat as the current administration has decided to rescind the policy. The President has made clear that the policy will be rescinded, but has decided to give Congress six months to either create an alternative or pass legislation permanently protecting it. In a move that has many Republicans in Congress uncertain about where they stand, the President met with Democrats in Congress to negotiate a deal in which the residency of DACA members would be made more permanent. In exchange, the Democrats would have to agree to increased border security. The President made it clear later last week that he was not advocating for “amnesty” and reassured his supporters that for DACA to be made permanent, “massive border security would have to be agreed to.” In spite of talks over increased border security, the border wall has been left off the table in negotiations. Should Congress fail to decide on a plan for DACA, the policy will end sometime in February 2018, leaving the fate of those 800,000 members uncertain.
Part of what has makes this policy so fragile is that it was never signed into law. Instead of going through congress, former President Obama opted instead to act independently. DACA and several other policies of the time were introduced as executive orders. This reliance on executive power has made it easy for the current administration to break apart any gains made by the Democrats in the last eight years. This could be attributed to an overconfidence in his successor on Obama’s part, but was more likely influenced by the then Congress’s unwillingness to work with the former president on any legislation. The causes of this fragility could be given a more nuanced approach, but regardless, Obama’s legacy was built on an unstable foundation. I could argue the moral reasons for why we should allow children amnesty in the United States, but this country does not care for moral arguments. The only question Americans want an answer to is “What will it cost?” or “What can I gain?” The argument being made among the President’s constituency has been that the presence of these DACA members has negative effects on our economy, violates our sovereignty, and brings a criminal element to our shores. The opposing argument is that DACA members help our economy and do not exhibit any negative effects on American workers. Under the language of the policy, DACA recipients must register with the federal government, be graduated from high school or pursuing a GED, and must have no criminal record. Any DACA member that violates these rules faces deportation. DACA members are subject to US labor laws, pay taxes, and must sign up for selective service. They are hardly the lawless criminals they have been depicted to be. The former argument is uniformed and deceitful, but while the latter makes a stronger case, it also falls short of our moral expectations.
Is it not written in Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”? For a country that claims moral authority, we have fallen short of integrity. Have we become so devoid of moral understanding that we have simply reduced others to their usefulness? Whether we were born on this side of a line on a map or somewhere else we are all made in His image. I believe that we can look beyond flags and nations to see the beauty and value in every living person, “legal” or not.
Sources: CNN; The Washington Post; Twitter