As one of his first acts as the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump is expected to repeal the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy by executive fiat on Friday. Issued by President Obama in June 2012, DACA temporarily stays the deportation of children of undocumented immigrants brought into the United States who are enrolled in school, more popularly known as “DREAMers.”
Although Trump won the presidency on a platform of being tough on immigration, repealing DACA would not fix the fundamental problems at America’s borders. Instead of deporting thousands of hardworking youngsters who love the U.S. as their home, President Trump should work with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Trump wasn’t always a hawk when it came to questions of migration. During the 2012 presidential election, he even made some favorable statements about immigrants. To take just one:
You know my views on it and I’m not necessarily, I think I’m probably down the middle on that also. Because I also understand how, as an example, you have people in this country for 20 years, they’ve done a great job, they’ve done wonderfully, they’ve gone to school, they’ve gotten good marks, they’re productive — now we’re supposed to send them out of the country. I don’t believe in that.
DACA recipients fit Trump’s description of “productive” immigrants perfectly. To qualify, applicants must be free from felony convictions and pursuing education, have graduated high school or be enlisted in the military. In short, DACA stays the deportation of immigrants who could become model citizens when and if they achieve their citizenship.
I’ve written previously about how vital immigrants are to the American economy. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants as of 2011. DACA beneficiaries share this entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, a recent survey found that DACA recipients are twice as likely to start businesses as native-born American citizens. The same survey found that 83 percent of DACA recipients enrolled in school also hold jobs at the same time.
America thrives with a steady flow of brain and muscle across her borders to build her economy.
America’s DREAMers are not the violent immigrants that Trump vilified on the campaign trail. Deporting them would be a significant opportunity cost to our economy. More importantly, repealing DACA would not fix America’s broken immigration system in any of the ways that President-elect Trump has promised. It wouldn’t build a wall. It wouldn’t deport violent criminals who are in the country illegally. Repealing DACA isn’t even a stopgap measure; it is simply a bad way to signal toughness on immigration without having any teeth.
Rather than a flashy executive order, Trump should roll up his sleeves and put his world-famous deal-making skills to good use. With Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, Trump can easily pass comprehensive immigration reform while allowing America’s DREAMers to continue their productive lives in the U.S.