Ferenstein: DACA Represents the Best of America

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

While there is plenty wrong with our immigration system, the policy that protected undocumented children (‘Dreamers”) is something that should make Americans proud.

We’re a country that pioneered the idea of economic self-determination, and these children have honored that uniquely American idea. Though Dreamers are more likely to be born into low-income households and are ineligible for many government welfare programs, they are still more likely to go on to college, start their own business, and hire their fellow citizens than immigrants in similar circumstances.

When protection against deportation was officially extended to them under President Obama’s DACA program, studies show that employment and college enrollment increased. They have become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and soldiers. When Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas, DACA-protected immigrant Alonso Guillen sacrificed his life to rescue his fellow citizens.

These children are hard working patriots, who knowingly broke no laws when they were brought to this country, many when they were under 6 years of age.

Many conservatives believe that this country needs an “America first” immigration policy–that we should not let in newcomers that compete with natives. But, anyone who thinks we have a clear understanding of how Dreamers impact the economy hasn’t read the research closely enough. Because they have registered with the federal government, we know from surveys that they are more educated and more likely to be employed thanks to DACA protections. It’s very difficult to know whether this is definitively a net positive or negative.

We do know, however, it will be extremely costly to deport hundreds-of-thousands of immigrants, rip them from their families, and destroy the businesses that currently employ Americans. Given this information, deporting Dreamers is sloppy malice, attacking a group because some want to overhaul immigration with such brute force that they don’t care who is sacrificed in the sweep.

The second critique against DACA seems to be that Dreamers are here illegally, and we are a nation of laws. But, in the United States, tiny children are not punished when they break laws. More importantly, America distinguished itself at its founding by shedding Britain’s obsession with family dynasty. We were among the first nations to stop punishing children for the sins of their parents. Protecting Dreamers upholds this uniquely American tradition.

America is a principled and merciful country. Deporting Dreamers is a proactive policy that has no clear benefits. We should be proud of what these immigrants represent. We should treat Dreamers as they have treated their fellow Americans–as neighbors.

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