Out of the millions of illegal immigrants who reside in the United States, hundreds of thousands are children who have been brought here by their families. Currently, 690,000 of these children are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which gives them the right to legally reside in the United States and claim certain benefits that undocumented people are not typically granted. DACA does not provide a pathway to citizenship for these immigrants, but rather allows them to be “lawfully present” and pursue their lives without the threat of deportation. Recently, this Obama-era policy was terminated by the Trump administration. Now, the fate of DACA has been placed in the hands of the Supreme Court, which will make a final decision on whether or not the act is constitutional. However, as DACA becomes a partisan battleground, it is important to ask: does DACA help solve America’s immigration crisis and does it bring advantages for these immigrants and society at large?
DACA is meant to provide more benefits and opportunities for children brought to the United States. In fact, DACA recipients are “primed to do better” in school and have far more success in the workforce when compared to other illegal immigrants. This is because the policy allows immigrants to reap many of the benefits that Americans receive without worries of deportation. This, in turn, leads to far more successful lives for these children. This cycle of benefit also means that DACA recipients have been a “major driver of economic growth” in the United States, helping all citizens prosper. Also, being in the U.S. since a young age means that DACA recipients are highly assimilated into American culture. Many of these children consider America to be their home and identify more closely with it than their country of origin. Further, the program allows parents to ensure that their children can have better opportunities in life, making it difficult, or immoral to oppose. The United States is home to these DACA recipients, and this makes it challenging to think about changing the policy.
However, the legality and constitutionality behind DACA must be brought into consideration. Many believe it is neither cruel nor immoral for a country to fairly enforce its laws, and currently, countless parents of DACA recipients live in the U.S. illegally because DACA “provide[s] not only the assurance that their lives won’t be upended, but also financial stability,” so family members feel a greater sense of safety to stay in the U.S. illegally. Former 13-term Congressman Bob Goodlatte believes DACA is a contributor to the “surge” of immigrants illegally entering the United States. The policy encourages parents and families to decide to illegally immigrate based on the idea that their children will be protected, contributing to the current immigration crisis in the United States. People are also encouraged to stay in the U.S. longer with the hopes of qualifying for DACA. So, DACA is said to boost many illegal immigrants’ drive to come to the U.S. All of this considered, DACA is supported by 70% of citizens, and the U.S. cannot practically round up and deport 690,000 people, some of whom have been here since they were less than two years old. However, DACA cannot remain a policy forever. The country has to come up with reasonable and sustainable immigration reform. Right now DACA is beneficial to the United States and helps assist hundreds of thousands of people’s lives. Looking to the future, however, proper modifications to DACA need to be made to prevent further illegal immigration. A viable solution to this dilemma is to allow current DACA recipients to remain in the U.S. while halting all new applications to the DACA program. Phasing out DACA is the only way to ensure the protection of the children already residing in the United States, while still disincentivizing illegal immigration. Immigration is a complicated issue with moral, economic and legal repercussions that affect nearly all facets of our infrastructure. Meaningful immigration reform will not be easy, but it is critical that we, as a country, make difficult decisions to ensure that we can still uphold and responsibly execute the mandate given to us by Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, [y]our huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a country of immigrants and should be proud of the fact that people leave everything they know and love to come here in order to seek more opportunities for themselves and their children. However, the United States cannot simply be everything to everyone, and unless we wrestle with these immigration challenges now, more difficult and severe solutions may need to be implemented in the future.