Only U.S. citizens devoid of all empathy could fail to be concerned for the plight of the “Dreamers” – young immigrants whose futures are up in the air following the result of the presidential election.
According to some reports, during their meeting at the White House last week, President Barack Obama urged President-elect Donald Trump to “think long and hard” before “endangering” around 750,000 young immigrants who have been protected from deportation after applying to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or DREAM Act.
Most of the applicants were brought to the United States as young children and have lived the majority of their lives north of the border. Few know much about the countries of their birth, and many have excelled in their educations and careers. Some have served in the military.
During his campaign, Trump promised to overturn the DACA program that has brought thousands of young men and women out of the shadows and allowed them to continue studying and working in the United States without fear.
Despite these threats, enrollees in DACA may not be in immediate danger of deportation as Trump has said he initially only intends to target between two and three million “criminal immigrants.”
Nonetheless, the new president has the power to rescind DACA with the stroke of a pen, just as Obama introduced the measure through an executive order.
This would bring immeasurable heartbreak and uncertainty to hundreds of thousands of law-abiding young people, since DACA is not available to anyone with a criminal record and only those aged between 15 and 31 may apply.
Adding to the nervousness of Dreamers is what kind of guarantees Trump will eventually give to their family members (parents, siblings) who do not qualify for the DACA program. Will they be allowed to stay in the United States? Is he really prepared to break up families just to make a political point?
Trump’s initial announcement indicates that he wants time to develop his immigration policy, and some analysts suggest he may not even carry out the draconian deportation of 11 million undocumented citizens as he vowed repeatedly during his campaign.
The long-term outlook, however, does not look good. Kris Kobach, the secretary of state for Kansas who has been described as an “anti-immigrant zealot,” is the favorite to head the new administration’s immigration policy team. “No person living here illegally gets a free pass, like they did under the Obama administration,” he has stated.
In the aftermath of the election, Obama has encouraged Americans to give Trump some time to adjust himself to the responsibilities of the presidency.
It’s a charitable concession that won’t endure should the new tenant of the White House revoke a piece of legislation that the outgoing president considers to be one of his most important and compassionate achievements.