Cancelling DACA: A definite cruelty or has it always been a deferred certainty?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Shifting slightly from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, national focus and the news media in the United States of America this week are on the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy by the Trump administration.

The Trump White House, through US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced that the Obama-era policy, enunciated in 2012, will now be rescinded. The reasons given for the administration’s latest controversial, in Trump’s words, were so that the status of the undocumented persons will be resolved “through the lawful Democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve”

The move has been greeted with some praise but very severe criticism, especially by former US senior administration officials. Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright asked, in a tweet, how an American President could be so “cruel”. Immediate past Vice President, Joe Biden, sounded a similar tone: “Brought by parents, these children had no choice in coming here. Now they’ll be sent to countries they’ve never known. Cruel. Not America.” His boss and architect of the initiative, President Obama, criticized Trump for hiding under a supposed incoming legal discomfiture to go against “basic decency” in cancelling the policy.

Trump’s White House says its decision to shift the burden of creating a solution for the Dreamers to the US Congress was necessary given that about 10 Attorneys-Generals of some states are preparing to challenge the legality of DACA in court. This, according to the White House, would have left the 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA at the mercy of a Judge’s gavel and the administration was not confident of being on the right side of the argument.

Obama’s letter expressing disappointment at the cancellation of yet another one of his more popular policies observed that “kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages”. He also stated that it was not proper to send the affected people away to another country where they may not even know the language spoken, as the US has been the only home they have known.

Because the Congress could not send him a bill on the issue, Obama conceived DACA as a policy which allowed certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The cancellation by Trump will now give the US Congress six months to enact legislation on the issue, and Trump states that “If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”

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