Good DACA decision, but 'Dreamers' still stuck
Last Tuesday in Washington, D.C., a third federal judge ruled that DACA must continue for the time being, dealing a setback to the Trump administration, which acted to rescind the program as of March 5. Sadly, this ruling offers little comfort to those whose immigration status has been left in limbo. U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that the basis for the administration's decision was "virtually unexplained" and therefore illegal — however, his ruling is only temporary, as it allows the government 90 days to state its rationale.
President Barack Obama created DACA unilaterally through executive order in 2012 after Congress failed to confront the explosive issue of what to do with thousands of morally innocent young people whom the law treats as if they purposely snuck into the country without documents. Mr. Obama's act, in addition to being morally correct, was politically shrewd in that it seized upon the plight of a sympathetic group to insert a wedge into an undeniably divisive issue. DACA provides for renewable two-year periods during which "Dreamers," as these young people came to be called, could live freely in the open and be permitted to work and drive. There would be no path to citizenship, but they would be left alone by authorities. Unfortunately, Dreamers now find themselves tossed about by two strong political currents: The first is a rising tide of xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment whipped up by Donald Trump. The second is that DACA was created by executive order and not legislation, which gives some credence to the claim that President Obama overstepped his authority and allows Mr. Trump to undo the program with his own executive order.
Amid all the partisan maneuvering, one can easily forget that these are real people — Americans, for all intents and purposes — with families, jobs and responsibilities, who live with the real fear of being plucked out of their lives without warning. Brooke Mead, executive director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center, estimates that hundreds of DACA recipients and their families are affected in Berkshire County by this unresolved state of affairs. She added that some would-be DACA applicants have preferred to live in the shadows rather than provide information to a government that could well use it against them someday.
Should Judge Bates fail to be satisfied by the administration's reasons for rescinding DACA, the program will be allowed to resume and accept new applicants unless, and until, a higher court reverses his decision.
Court action is not the proper way to resolve this serious human issue. The proper way to solve the problem is for Congress to pass legislation protecting Dreamers and provide them a path to citizenship. In the current political climate of an election year, it is sad that the likelihood of such legislation is slight, but footage of young Americans being marched onto deportation buses is beyond sad. It is abhorrent, and it is un-American.
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