Why the Dreamer Debate Impacts our American Identity

by Andy Price

On September 5th 2017, President Trump announced that his administration would be ending the DACA program, throwing the lives of thousands of young men and women into disarray and uncertainty. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, often shorten to DACA was a policy was created by then President Obama in June 2012, under executive order. Meant to be a temporary fixture until congressional action, DACA protected undocumented immigrates who came to this county as children with their parents from deportation. Of the 43 million immigrates in our county, about 788,000 have had their requests for DACA status accepted, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In order to apply for DACA, immigrants had to be younger than 31 on June 15, 2012, must have come to the U.S. before turning 16 and must have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

In the announcement President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both used the language of anti-immigrant activists, arguing that those in the country illegally are lawbreakers who hurt native-born Americans by usurping their jobs and pushing down wages, making the usual claim that program had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.” This action was quickly condemned by members of both sides of the political spectrum, even prompting former President Obama to call the decision as “self-defeating”.

“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong,” the former president said. “And it is cruel.

In the crossfire of this debate we lose sight of what is at stake, that these are real people. People who’ve attended our schools, pledged allegiance to our flag, prayed in our churches, and played in our community rec leagues. People who started families, built careers, and lived their lives in what is often the only nation they know and the country that they love.

And it’s not just bad morals, it’s bad economics. A study by the Center for American Progress estimated that the U.S. would lose about $460 billion in GDP over the next 10 years without DACA, as thousands of young people will be forced out of the workforce, creating a tremendous disruption for businesses, and sending shockwaves through the economies of most states. Nor is this an issue of National Security, as those applying were already vetted for any criminal history or threat to national security and had to be students or have completed school or military service and their status must be renewed every two years.

Andy is a senior at Ohio University majoring in Economics and Political Science.

When I as in Basic Combat training for the army, one of the other privates in my company was an immigrate from east Africa. He had joined the army in order to gain his citizenship, and thus gave up a chapter of his life to serve in our armed forces. I remember one day I asked him why he wanted to be a citizen, why he was willing to sacrifice and endure the trials and tribulations. I will never forget what he said on that hot summer’s day in Fort Sill Oklahoma, “why wouldn’t I”.

Our nation is a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. From our booming cities and towns, across our breath-taking mountains and fruitful plains, to the most profound symbol of our American identity  in the Statue of Liberty, where it says definitively to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

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