Well, it finally happened.
Yesterday, President Trump announced that he would be rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The action will eliminate protection for roughly 800,000 children of immigrants—many of whom were born in the United States.
In a nutshell, the DACA program protects eligible children of immigrants from deportation. Eligibility is contingent upon the individual’s enrollment in school or achievement of at least a high-school diploma; service in or honorable discharge from the armed forces; and a clean criminal record. The purpose of DACA is to allow children of immigrants to participate in American society by removing the fear of discovery and deportation that might otherwise discourage them from doing so.
With DACA, children of immigrants are able to get better-paying jobs. In addition, many are engaged in higher education, and 92% say they’re pursuing levels of education they previously would not have considered without the protection offered by DACA.
Like it or not, the United States benefits from DACA. Because the program incentivizes education and/or military service, the result is a workforce that is better-equipped to navigate a changing global economy. And what does the government give up in exchange? Nothing. All it has to do is offer the same security and opportunity to these children that was offered to the ancestors of the people currently in the federal government.
In fact, DACA introduces more parity to the job market—by achieving higher levels of education, children of immigrants can command salaries comparable to those of native-born Americans. As a result, there are fewer people willing to work for slave wages, which means businesses are forced to pay their workers fairly.
The economic benefits of DACA are clear; what’s even more apparent is the damage the Trump administration will do to our economy by rescinding it. Over the next decade, studies indicate that ending DACA will cost the U.S. over $460 billion in GDP, result in a $26.4 billion reduction to Social Security & Medicare, and incur $3.4 billion in needless costs to businesses associated with turnover. The majority of the country knows this, too: 56% of the country supports DACA.
This is not an economic issue; it is an ethno-nationalist one. Trump and the GOP’s opposition to DACA is rooted in the belief that America, a country built on the backs of immigrants, is suddenly too good for them. Of course, given Trump’s obsession with dismantling any progress made under our 44th president with no regard for the consequences, it’s entirely possible that Trump simply wants to eliminate the program because it was implemented under President Obama.
Trump supporters might argue that removing DACA recipients will open up jobs for people who “deserve” them (i.e., white people), but given the skills gap in the American workforce, there’s no guarantee that those people are able to perform those jobs. Moreover, it’s entirely possible that many businesses won’t be able to afford the turnover costs associated with rescinding DACA and will simply do more with less—or shut down entirely.
So why in the world would Trump end a program that helps people get jobs? Why eliminate opportunities for those willing to work for them, and why do it at a tremendous cost to the American economy? Because the people getting the jobs aren’t the right people. DACA recipients didn’t vote for Trump, so Trump doesn’t care about them; he’d much rather see the jobs go to the unemployed, unqualified members of his base.
Naturally, Trump doesn’t want to take responsibility for this—instead, he’s setting a six-month timeframe for Congress to come up with comprehensive immigration reform. After all, it’s a lot easier to hold rallies and stoke the most xenophobic fears of one’s base when you’re not going to be the one doing the dirty work.
As with Obamacare, there is far more benefit to keeping DACA intact and making necessary improvements (for example, DACA does not offer children of immigrants a clear pathway to citizenship) than there is in eliminating it entirely. But just as we saw with the BRCA and the efforts to repeal Obamacare, Trump’s motivation is primarily to retain the approval of his most rabid supporters, even if it means causing irreparable damage to millions.
More than a few congressional Republicans have spoken out in opposition to rescinding DACA, which means it’s still possible that Congress will fail to create any legislation that follows through on Trump’s promise. At this point, it’s the best-case scenario for all involved: Trump will have a convenient scapegoat for yet another legislative failure; congressional Republicans can campaign on the notion that they let it fail out of some sense of decency; and DACA recipients won’t be forced out of the only home they’ve ever known.
Trump will argue that rescinding DACA is just one part of a broader plan to reform immigration in the United States. But as history has shown, Trump rarely (if ever) has a plan. Hopefully, this is no exception.