After much speculation, President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise on September 5 when he rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA).
A 2012 executive action by then-President Barack Obama, DACA allowed individuals who entered the country illegally as minors and met certain criteria to receive a renewable two-year deferral from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. (It did not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship.) The program is scheduled to be phased out over the next six months and will affect the status of 800,000 DACA recipients.
Public reaction to the news varied from condemnation to approval, and Jewish organizations primarily expressed the former.
“As Jews, our people have known the experience of being ‘strangers in strange lands.’ Our past reminds us of the struggles faced by so many immigrants today,” Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) Director Rabbi Jonah Pesner said in a statement. “Because of this history, Judaism demands that we welcome the stranger and compels us to work for a just immigration system.”
“It is imperative that Congress step up in support of these young people who grew up in the United States and who want to give back to the only country they know as home,” he said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) echoed the RAC’s sentiment. “We are a nation of immigrants. The lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to this country as children now hang in the balance,” Director Jonathan Greenblatt said.
“This action by the president and his administration is cruel, unnecessary, and inconsistent with the core values of our country,” he continued. “We support an immigration policy that is comprehensive, protects our security, reunites families, and improves our economy while honoring our values as a nation of immigrants. We support a bipartisan effort to protect these young immigrants through legislative action and renew our call on Congress to act now.”
Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, linked the DACA decision to Trump’s negative language regarding immigrants during his campaign and the increased vocalness of white supremacists in the U.S. since his election.
“President Trump has threatened to end DACA — to target hundreds of thousands of long-term residents of the United States for deportation, even though they were brought here as children and have built their lives here,” said Cotler. “This would be heartbreaking, but not surprising. His rhetoric about immigrants has been consistently cruel from the beginning.”
She added, “Now, emboldened by the ascendancy of white supremacy in the public sphere, he is escalating into ever more explicit racism.”
However, DACA recipients might not have to worry after all: A bipartisan agreement on the long-stalled DREAM Act may be in sight, according to The Daily Beast. Republican and Democratic congressional officials indicated they would support the bill, which would reapply legal protections for the immigrant children in exchange for border security and immigration enforcement that would exclude funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Whether such legislation can pass both the House and Senate is unknown; it was introduced three times, starting in 2001, before DACA’s enactment.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” one immigration lawyer told Kol HaBirah.
The lawyer, who deals with business immigration matters and requested anonymity for this article, disagreed with Obama’s use of executive privilege to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“I wasn’t for it as an executive action but I’m also not for repealing it now without something from Congress first,” she said. “I just think it’s unfair to do this to people. It’s like taking the rug out from under someone.”
Even so, she continued, problems with DACA may not be addressed in the proposed DREAM Act, which would similarly offer amnesty contingent on requirements such as graduating high school, not committing a felony, and not receiving three or more misdemeanors.
By Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman is the Capital Commentary and Op-Ed editor of Kol HaBirah. Follow him on Twitter: @jacksonrichman.