As Congress nears a deadline next week to approve a new budget or budget extension, the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program hangs in the balance. In September, the Trump administration discontinued the program, which has granted residence and work permits to about 690,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
Shannon Gleeson, a Cornell University professor of labor relations and an expert on immigrant labor, has been working on a three-year long collaborative project to study how the DACA policy is implemented at the local level in Houston, New York City, San Francisco and San Jose. She says that on the ground, DACA protection empowered undocumented immigrants with an education, means to provide for their families and protection from labor abuses.
Gleeson is available for interviews in Spanish.
“The DACA program provided many undocumented immigrants with hope for their educational and professional futures. It also gave beneficiaries the critical work authorization that they needed to provide for their families. For these workers, DACA was a crucial reprieve from deportation that also helped empower them to confront abusive employer behavior.
“With the rescission of DACA, the President and Attorney General have needlessly stripped these immigrants of this critical support, putting the well-being of these immigrants, their families, and their communities in danger. The same is true for the Temporary Protected Status program that Trump is dismantling piece by piece. The proposed border militarization measures instead being proposed are an irresponsible use of resources that will further terrorize immigrant communities.
“This punitive approach also ignores the central role that the United States has played in creating those conditions of violence and economic instability that propel migrants to this country in the first place. In contrast, a broad-based legalization program for all undocumented immigrants is a sensible and humane solution, which research shows was successful three decades ago with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.
“We would do well to follow this example, and that of other countries that shoulder a far heavier portion of the world’s burden of refugees, and that regularize their undocumented populations far more frequently.”
Maria Lorena Cook, a professor of comparative labor at Cornell University and author of several books on labor movements in Latin America and unauthorized migration, argues that in the current political environment, protection of the Dreamers may come at the expense of further harm to their communities.
Cook is available for interviews in Spanish.
“Unless Congress acts, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients stand to lose their deportation relief and work authorization on March 5, 2018, the date that DACA is set to expire. The future of DACA beneficiaries lies in the hands of the Republican-dominated Congress and the Trump administration. Assuming, in the best of cases, that Democrats are able to wrest a commitment to protect Dreamers, the outcome is likely to be unpalatable.
“Dreamers may face a Hobson’s choice: either their own protection from deportation in exchange for even more restrictive immigration enforcement – and the greater likelihood that their family members and communities will suffer its effects – or nothing at all.”