“We have a moral obligation to protect Dreamers and defend those who have known no other country but this one.”
The U.S. Supreme Court indicated last week that it may allow the Trump administration to end the program protecting roughly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, from deportation.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program began in 2012 under President Obama and allows those brought to the U.S. illegally as children to legally work and go to school if they meet certain requirements and pass a background check. The program requires applicants to renew their status every two years and recipients cannot have felonies or serious misdemeanors on their records.
Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans support protecting Dreamers and providing them with a pathway to citizenship, but the Trump administration has spent more than two years trying to end the program, calling it “unconstitutional” and “illegal.”
The administration has been met with significant opposition from Democrats and legal challenges from DACA recipients, civil rights groups, corporations, and universities.
Those challenges have proved successful, as lower courts have repeatedly ruled that the administration’s legal reasoning for ending the program— that it’s unlawful — is based on faulty legal analysis, and that the administration must provide a detailed rationale that weighs the benefits and consequences of ending DACA.
The case has now reached the Supreme Court, which appears poised to overturn the lower courts’ rulings. During oral arguments, the Court’s conservative majority appeared satisfied by the administration’s reasoning for ending the program.
Justice Neil Gorsuch said he saw little need in forcing the administration to provide better reasons. “What good would another five years of litigation over the adequacy of that explanation serve?” Gorsuch asked.
If the Court strikes down DACA, it could once again place the onus on the White House and Congress to make a deal on a comprehensive immigration reform package. Such legislation has proved elusive in the past as President Trump has refused to support any immigration reform bill unless it’s tied to funding for his proposed border wall — a non-starter for most Democrats.
House Democrats have nonetheless put forth their best effort to protect Dreamers, passing the DREAM and Promise Act of 2019, which would provide DACA recipients with a pathway to citizenship. The Republican-controlled Senate has refused to consider the bill and President Trump issued a veto threat against the bill, leaving it dead on arrival.
Among the Democrats who voted for the DREAM Act was Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), who released a statement on Tuesday reiterating her support for Dreamers.
“Dreamers are students, small business owners, first responders and essential parts of our community who strive to contribute to the growth and prosperity of the only places they’ve called home,” her statement read. “As the justices weigh the merits of this case, I will continue to fight for a clear and moral immigration system that keeps our border communities vibrant and safe.”
There are nearly 7,000 Dreamers in New Mexico, a plurality of whom reside in Torres Small’s district, according to 2017 data from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.
Other members of Congress also expressed their support for Dreamers.
“We have a moral obligation to protect Dreamers and defend those who have known no other country but this one,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) in a statement. “The Supreme Court must uphold the DACA program, and the Senate must pass the Dream and Promise Act to provide a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers who help make this country great. Anything less would shamefully neglect our values.”
DACA recipients across the country also expressed their concern about the Court’s looming decision
“Without DACA, we will be back in the darkness.”
“This is really scary. This is really messed up,” 23-year-old D.C. resident and community organizer Brenda Perez told WAMU. “Everything that I’ve been working for for the past 10 years, I could see it right in front of me just going to waste.”
Los Angeles resident Deisy Mendez also expressed her fears to The Cut.
“Without DACA, we will be back in the darkness. The government has all of our information. My biggest worry is the trauma they would experience if we had to be separated. That’s a big emotional trauma, not just for my family, but for all of us,” Mendez said. “Honestly, I don’t have a plan. I have faith and hope that I will continue to fight for this.”
DACA recipients wouldn’t be the only ones to suffer; the American economy could also feel the consequences of DACA repeal.
More than 90% of DACA recipients are employed and DACA-eligible individuals paid $4 billion in taxes to the U.S. government in 2017, according to figures from the New American Economy, a bipartisan group dedicated to immigration reform.
If DACA recipients were deported, the federal government could lose $60 billion and U.S. economic growth could shrink by $280 billion, according to estimates from the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank.
Few topics divide Americans like immigration, but the issue has historically not motivated Democratic voters at the polls in the ways it has Republican voters. Some left-leaning strategists hope that if the Court rules in the Trump administration’s favor, it could mobilize younger voters who have shown allegiance to the Dreamers.
“It’s about your traditional get-out-the vote operations, where Dreamers are the public face of a campaign to get the youth vote out,” said Daniel Herrera, communications consultant at the left-leaning Raben Group told the New York Times. “That’s how you’re going to mobilize youth voters, because theoretically they’ll see themselves in those Dreamers and be more motivated to vote.”
The Supreme Court is expected to make its final ruling on DACA by June 2020.