The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Dec. 6:
MIAMI (Tribune News Service) — A federal judge’s latest affirmation that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA, should be reinstated is great news for the young people called Dreamers, who for the past four years have been tiptoeing around the possibility of being deported.
The judge’s ruling also affirmed the ongoing absurdity of U.S. immigration policies that for years have lacked the coherence of comprehensive reform.
Friday, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn ordered the Trump administration to restore DACA, created by President Obama’s executive order in 2012. It prevents the deportation of young, undocumented immigrants, whose parents brought them to the United States illegally when they were children. The ruling says the administration must again accept applications for DACA renewal as well as from those who are newly eligible.
President Trump, who in 2016 vociferously campaigned on a bigoted anti-immigrant platform, announced in September 2017 that he was ending DACA, which he had used as a bargaining chip to get funds for his border wall. His action and the viability of the program itself have been litigated in courts ever since, alleging that the administration ended the program unlawfully.
Along the way, U.S. district courts in New York, California and the District of Columbia allowed those protected by DACA to renew coverage.
And there have been challenges to DACA’s existence, and those are expected to continue. Despite President-elect Joe Biden’s stated support for the program, the U.S. Supreme Court, with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, has signaled its dissatisfaction with DACA.
The Editorial Board has always supported DACA: It protects blameless undocumented immigrants while giving them the legal tools to get an education and find employment. In all, their numbers are few — about 25,000 in Florida; about 12,000 in South Florida; eligibility requirements are stringent; individually, Dreamers are rarely burdens on the nation’s social services. In all, it has shielded about 800,000 young people from deportation.
But the ping-ponging fortunes of the Dreamers highlight the absurdity of this nation’s willingness to create immigration law by the stroke of a pen, rather than by lawmakers courageously working toward a tough, fair and, ultimately, effective endgame for this nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
This didn’t begin with the Trump administration. In 1995, President Clinton signed off on admitting Cuban rafters only if they made it to to dry land. Obama ended it in early 2017. Back in 1907, Theodore Roosevelt signed executive orders restricting Japanese and Korean laborers.
“This piecemeal approach — some (immigrants) have TPS, some don’t, for instance — causes a lot of uncertainty for many immigrants, a lot of instability,” Ted Hutchinson, Florida director of FWD.us, told the Editorial Board on Saturday, referring to Temporary Protected Status.
“Biden should push for comprehensive reform.” Hutchinson said, including a pathway to citizenship. Streamline and modernize the system, a 15-to-20-year wait for green cards is counterproductive. Yes, secure the border, not with a wall, but with smart technology.
But this is a job for lawmakers who will ensure that when Trump leaves the White House, his anti-immigrant rhetoric goes with him; that, instead, congressional leaders on this issue, like Sen. Marco Rubio once was, see the dangerous folly of letting 11 million people languish in limbo. It’s bad for families, for the economy, for civil society. It’s a heavy lift, and not one for the new president to hoist alone.
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