Nearly a million young people may soon find themselves adrift, without a home or a job, and yet it is barely a blip on the radar, lost in the hoopla surrounding the impeachment proceedings. Granted, the impeachment of a corrupt president is high priority, is perhaps the most important thing happening in this nation at the moment. But, the lives of 700,000+ young people are pretty important, too.
Imagine you came to this country as a very young child … your first memories are of life in the United States. You speak English, you went to school in this country, got an after-school job when you were 16, graduated high school with honours, and now you’re in college, studying to become a doctor, a teacher, or an accountant. Your grades have earned you a partial scholarship, you are working nights at a food processing plant … and tomorrow it could all be taken away. You could lose your job, be kicked out of school, and in fact be deported.
Deported? To where? You’ve never been outside the U.S. in your conscious memory! This is your home! You know nobody in the country of your parents’ origin. What will you do? How will you live? You barely even speak Spanish! And why? What have you done wrong? You’ve never even had so much as a parking ticket … you’ve lived your life well, respecting others, respecting the country that gave your family the opportunity for a better life.
More than 700,000 young people may face this situation soon, if he Supreme Court rules in Trump’s favour on the issue of ending DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that has been in effect since 2012. Yesterday, the Court heard arguments from both sides, and indications are that they will likely rule in Trump’s favour.
In 2012, President Barack Obama introduced the program, which shields people who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. It was intended as a stopgap measure, and didn’t provide a pathway to citizenship. But it did allow participants, known as Dreamers, to get work permits, and in some states, including California, to access in-state tuition and legally drive. Dreamers can renew their status in two-year intervals.
To be eligible for DACA status, applicants had to show that they had arrived in the United States before they turned 16 and were no older than 30, had lived in the United States for at least the previous five years, were a high school graduate or a veteran, and had committed no serious crimes. The status lasts for two years, allows recipients to work legally and is renewable, but it does not provide a path to citizenship.
In 2017, for reasons I cannot understand, Trump decided to end the program. Trump had previously indicated his support for DACA, but it was the work of white supremacist Stephen Miller and racist former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that convinced Trump to end the program. They claimed that the program was illegal and unconstitutional, and apparently Trump, never having read the Constitution, decided to end the program. In his formal announcement to end the program, Trump wrote …
“I do not favor punishing children. The program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”
However, it has been successfully defended in court, not once, not twice, but three times. Three federal appeals courts have ruled that when an administration revokes a policy like this, on which so many people, businesses and even the U.S. economy have relied, the administration must provide a fully supported rationale that weighs the pros and cons of the program, the costs and the benefits. Faced with those lower court decisions, the Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court, where it now awaits its fate.
These young people have faced discrimination that nobody reading this post has likely ever faced. They are banned from many colleges, are not eligible for any federal grants or loans, and in most states, they cannot even qualify for in-state tuition. And yet thousands of them have graduated from college in the United States. How do they do it? The motivation of many of these students is so strong it is almost absurd. And if Trump has his way, it may well be a death sentence for many of the 700,000.
Maria Nava, who graduated from high school in 2003, received no state aid. But her generous sister promised to contribute her own earnings to help put Nava through college. Trouble was, their combined earnings weren’t much. Nava used up the small private scholarships she earned as a top-ranking student. Most semesters, the sisters could afford just one class at Nava’s local community college. One class at a time. Nava graduated from her two-year college in 11 years.
If the Supreme Court overturns lower court injunctions and says Trump followed the law in rescinding DACA, not one of these amazing, accomplished young people will be able to work for a law-abiding employer in the United States. After Nava’s 11 years at a two-year college, after more than 8,000 DACA teachers have been hired by U.S. school systems, after 14,000 DACA nurses and other professionals got jobs in health care — all who have jobs will have to be fired when their DACA expires. Those who are students will be ineligible for a job with a law-abiding employer.
I sincerely hope that there are five justices on the Supreme Court who have not exchanged their conscience for partisanship. If the Court sides with Donald Trump & Stephen Miller on this issue, we will know that the Judiciary Branch of our government is no longer an independent, non-partisan branch, but rather an extension of the Executive Branch, currently led by a bigoted, corrupt, wanna-be dictator.