Last week, President Trump made a dubious threat to approximately 800,000 children and young adults currently living lawfully in our country: if my campaign promise to build a Mexico border wall does not move forward, these children and young adults will lose their legal status and potentially face deportation.
So who are these kids?
Under the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program (DACA), these children, some now young adults (often coined ‘Dreamers’), are undocumented immigrants brought to the United States before age of 16, and have lived in the United States for at least 5 years with no significant criminal history. The program allows them to work in the country under two-year renewable permits, enabling employment opportunities and access to higher education that leads to a snowball effect of positive results in their lives and our community.
As young adults, they have served our country in uniform, graduated from our colleges and universities, and are now investing in our community. In our third congressional district represented by Rep. Jim Banks, there are an estimated 1,000 DACA recipients, and another 1,100 DACA eligible. According to the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, deporting these DACA protected workers would result in a $53,000,000 loss in GDP..
But aside from this, let’s take a step back to consider that on arrival to our country, before being labeled as undocumented immigrants, they were simply children, and this country is the only meaningful home they have ever known. They were children brought here by their parents, and living out a situation they had no control over. I see these kids often in my Fort Wayne clinic, confiding with me in tears the fear of deportation to a country they have no real connection to
Unfortunately, these fears are real and unless congress acts by March 5, 2018, Dreamers’ legal status will expire, and the negative individual and societal impacts realized. Advocating for DACA protections makes sense and is the right thing to do, but as we learned last week, will first depend on a quid pro-quo from the president’s campaign promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
While both may fit under the umbrella of immigration reform, marrying these issues together is immature. In reality, this is a strategy we’ve seen before: holding a popular idea hostage to achieve more controversial campaign promises. As you should recall, congress has refused to re-authorize the popular and important Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), an insurance plan for 9 million low-income children, until the GOP tax plan is signed into law.
We should be saddened and disappointed that in both cases, the pawns are children. We can do better. To our Representative Jim Banks and Senators Todd Young and Joe Donnelly, YOU can do better. In 2018, lets resolve to stop this unfortunate chess game with children and do the right thing first. Protecting our DACA recipients by legislating their protections into a law, with or without President Trump’s wall, is a step in the right direction.
Happy New Year!
Senator Todd Young DC: 202-224-5623 IN: 317-226-6700
Senator Joe Donnelly DC: 202-224-4814 IN: 812-425-5813
Rep Jim Banks DC: 202-225-4436