Trump's First Immigration Challenge: 750,000 Deferred Action Permit Holders
Judging by immigration news stories, the question of the day is what will happen to the approximately 750,000 deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) permit holders. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to end the program, and few doubt that he will. If Trump doesn’t authorize DACA renewals and as the permits expire, the 750,000, some of whom are workers or students, will become unlawfully present, and deportable.
Then, several possible outcomes await those caught up in the new White House’s shift toward immigration enforcement. First, the DACAs will become part of the more than 12 million illegal immigrant population. Since Trump has repeatedly said that he won’t address the problem of already present illegal immigrants until the criminal aliens have been deported and the border is secure, then the DACAs are unlikely to be removed, at least immediately. Moreover, federal law mandates that K-12 students get access to public education, and state-passed Dream Acts protect university students. Regardless of how far along a student is in his education, Trump is highly unlikely to act against them – bad optics.
But employed DACAs are a different story. As part of his 10-point immigration plan, Trump has pledged to restore jobs to unemployed or under-employed Americans. And, many illegal immigrants, DACAs included, are working at jobs Americans will gladly do.
For the DACAs, there are three possible consequences. The first, and least likely, is that years from today, the DACAs will indeed be deported, mostly to Mexico where the majority were born. The media portrays removal as unacceptable, but in fact, it may open up better employment opportunities than exist in the U.S. Mexico’s economy with its $2.2 trillion gross domestic product, is relatively strong, and growing. Bilingual job applicants with U.S. degrees would likely be a sought-after commodity. Because of its beaches, nature reserves and colonial cities, Mexico is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and a nice place to live.
Trump’s second option is, at least, theoretically viable. Trump could use his negotiating skills to cut a deal with Congress that works for the DACAs and the country. Under such an agreement, the DACAs could stay, get green card status, and become lifetime work eligible, but could not, however, petition their overseas relatives. No chain migration would be allowed. Or Trump could, in exchange for DACA green card status, demand that the outdated diversity visa end immediately. The diversity visa is a lottery system that annually admits 50,000 foreign nationals even though most have no U.S. family ties, no special skills and no English-language command.
A third possible outcome would create national outrage. President Obama could pardon the 750,000 DACA holders, an action which would erase their record of illegal entry. A group of New York legislators and pro-immigrant lobbyists has asked Obama to forgive the DACAs. So far, Obama has not commented, but has asked Trump to “think long and hard” before ending the DACA program.
Whatever fate ultimately awaits the DACAs, incoming President Trump must send a message to the nation that he’s serious about immigration enforcement or his administration will immediately lose the respect and confidence of the voters that put him in the White House.
A Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow, Joe Guzzardi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.