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Congress must decide to act to preserve vital DACA

Credit: Holly Liu / Credit: Holly Liu /

This past Tuesday, Donald Trump’s administration announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This Obama-era executive order was created in 2012 to allow people brought into the United States illegally as children to remain in the country so long as they arrived before 2007, were under 16 and in school, and had no serious criminal backgrounds.

DACA was the result of Congress and President Obama’s failure to agree upon passing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have offered those who qualified for DACA the ability to gain permanent legal residency. This led to the term “DREAMers” which stuck for DACA recipients as well. Around 800,000 people have applied since its inception, with a 200,000 person spike since Trump's presidency began.

Several protests have broken out across the country following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement regarding the change. Colleges, including Carnegie Mellon, have strongly urged Congress to find a solution, with the University of California (UC) going as far as to sue the Trump administration “for wrongly and unconstitutionally violating the rights of the University and its students.” UC has a large undocumented population with many Dreamers that could be greatly affected by the repeal of DACA.

Trump’s repeal of DACA, while upsetting, doesn’t really come as a surprise to those who know his immigration stance. Sessions called “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.” Only permits set to expire before March 5, 2018 will be eligible to renew their status, leaving many others stranded with no real solution.

With the decision to cut DACA looming in the horizon, Congress has six months to solve the issue before the government stops issuing permits. Time sensitive ultimatums between the executive and legislative branches are often stressful, and with the left and right more divided now than seemingly ever, many Dreamers could be facing deportation.

This is not the first time a U.S. president has left Congress in a time crunch to act. Back in 2013 the government was shut down after Congress failed to pass a budget because of Obamacare. Many government workers were either furloughed or asked to work without pay. For 16 days, the country was left in a standstill as we waited for Congress to finally pass a budget. Congress’ solution to the shutdown however was only an extension, suspending the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014.

Another instance of Congress’ response to the pressures of time is the most recent attempted repeal and replacement of Obamacare. With a dramatic vote this past summer to pass a replacement, Republicans can’t seem to find a solution for the bill that, according to Trump, should just be left to die. As Republicans try to take a stand and make their distaste for Obamacare clear, the healthcare of millions of Americans has been put on the backburner, leaving them to suffer.

This repeated history of Congressional inaction makes the fate of DACA much more serious. Will a solution be found, or will it just be phased out, leaving hundreds of thousands of people with an uncertain future? It is not fair for a population of people who didn’t choose to come here to be left in the dark about their future. Congress has been playing a game of gridlock, and the losers are once again the American population.

Failure to replace DACA could cause a significant number of working employees to lose their jobs, and there’s no telling how the loss of this large population of Americans could impact companies all over the country. DACA recipients would also lose their ability to obtain drivers licenses and in-state tuition to public colleges. An entire talented and able population would be removed from the job population, and it is not certain if companies will be able to fill their void.
Without DACA, we’re punishing people for a decision they didn’t make. The act allows people to make the best out of a situation they have no control over, and with Congress’ current track record, Dreamers could be left without any reasonable options.

The time for Congress to act is now. DACA didn’t somehow create a population of criminals like Trump makes immigrants out to be — rather, it created a talented population of people brought to the U.S. for a better life. Do not let it end without something in place to protect those affected. The precedent of Congressional inaction needs to end before countless people who have called America their home since childhood are put more at risk of being sent away. We as a people can’t constantly be left wondering if our own government will let us fail, the same way it lets legislation like DACA.