For a nation that prides itself on its care for children, eliminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program seems contradictory — and mean-spirited. It is a punishing of the innocent and a crippling of our future.
Nearly 800,000 young people have benefited from DACA. These young people have been able to come out of the shadows, after receiving through DACA short-term, but important, legal status and work authorization. But they received nothing for free. They have had to pay legal and processing and further fees, while working and attending school at their own cost.
That is to say: for the opportunity to stay in the country they were brought to without any say on their part, DACA recipients have had to work hard — and they have brought great benefits to the U.S. According to a recent study from the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, removing DACA recipients from the U.S. workforce would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next decade. From a practical economic perspective, ending the program seems very shortsighted.
You can see their ethic in DACA itself: through their will and committed efforts, they obtained DACA. No one did it for them, though many supported them then and support them today, including myself.
I have met these DACA recipients. They are bright, committed young people just like the other young people you know. They aspire to be doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, astronauts, teachers and preachers. They are determined to grow and learn, to care for their families, to contribute to their communities and to make a difference in the world. I believe they will do great things that will continue to benefit all of us — if we will continue to support them.
As a Christian, I believe that the welfare of immigrants, and particularly immigrant children and young people, stands above broken immigration policies and certainly above partisan politics. Jesus himself time and again demonstrates through his actions the importance of children, healing them, welcoming them into his presence and declaring that God’s kingdom belongs to the children.
On the contrary, those advocating for doing away with DACA demonstrate the kind of hateful politics that constructs a culture of prejudice and discrimination that would hurt all children, and that undermines what should be the true culture of our country: one of respect and acceptance of the other.
Now that the President has acted, Congress should teach the children of this country the values of respect and acceptance, and the belief that all children are of equal worth. Only maintaining — or even strengthening — DACA would contribute to this lesson.