EDITORIAL: Congress needs to do the right thing on DACA

EDITORIAL: Congress needs to do the right thing on DACA


This Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 photo supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA carry signs during a protest in downtown Los Angeles. Almost 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or overstayed their visas could see their lives upended after the Trump administration announced Tuesday it is ending the Obama-era program that protected them from deportation.(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“We love the DREAMers. We love everybody.”

That was President Donald Trump, speaking last week. This week, however, he ordered an end to a program called DACA, created by the previous administration, that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The term “DREAMers” is commonly applied to some 800,000 young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. They would have benefited from the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act of 2001, which would have provided them with a pathway to permanent legal status, provided they achieved certain milestones.

But Congress never passed that bill, so five years ago President Barack Obama created DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) by executive order. DACA allows them to remain in the U.S. without fear of immediate removal and gives them the right to work legally.

Obama has called Trump’s action “cruel” — and we agree. Yes, laws were broken, but not by these young people, who have essentially grown up as Americans. This is their culture; this is the only home they’ve known for most of their lives. Many of them have younger siblings who are American citizens. Often their parents have been here for years, even decades, paying their taxes. To now hold possible deportation over their heads, is extreme and inappropriate.

And these young people have reason to be afraid: In order to live and work legally in our country under DACA, they shared detailed personal information with the Department of Homeland Security, and the deportation agencies could gain access to those files.

Trump is correct, though, in this respect: The fate of these people is too important to be dependent on a presidential order. It needs to be based in law, and only Congress can make that happen. Trump has given our legislators six months to come up with a solution that — as we have urged before on this issue — tempers justice with mercy.

The DREAMers trusted the government — or rather, they trusted Obama. But now they have a very different president to deal with. As he often does, Trump followed up the official announcement with a tweet, calling on Congress to “legalize DACA.”

Is he having second thoughts? Who knows? But perhaps that tweet will give some conservative members of Congress the political cover they need, to do the right thing.

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