President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out a program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation is highly unfortunate because of the uncertainty and anguish it has created. But the president’s order also brings opportunity — if Congress can finally muster the courage to act.
Currently, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, nearly 800,000 young residents who entered the country illegally as children are able to work legally and to live without fear of deportation. Those protections are now set to end in six months.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of young adults could lose their jobs, stop paying taxes and be sent back to countries where they haven’t lived for at least a decade. (To qualify for DACA, undocumented immigrants must have entered the United States by 2007 and have been younger than 16 at the time.)
So where lies the opportunity?
One of DACA’s major flaws is that it has kept those 800,000 young people in legal limbo. The program doesn’t provide a path for them to become U.S. citizens or even legal permanent residents.
The best solution would be for Congress to tackle comprehensive immigration reform, including enhanced border security, a simplified and enforceable visa system, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But it’s unlikely that this Congress can pass comprehensive legislation, given its inability to address other complex and pressing issues.
Instead, there needs to be a bipartisan push for a solution that not only protects those now covered by DACA from deportation but also provides the opportunity for them to become U.S. citizens.
That’s the most just and humane answer to this dilemma. It’s also what is best for the nation as a whole. The vast majority of DACA participants are law-abiding, productive members of their communities. In large numbers, they’re working or attending college as they pursue the American dream.
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