Killing DACA to MAGA? I don’t think so.

The Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA, allows illegal immigrants brought into the United States as children a chance to apply for a renewable two-year escape from deportation and makes them eligible for a work permit and a social security card. To qualify, recipients must have lived in the U.S. since age 16, needed to be under 31 when the bill was passed back in 2012, and have to have a clean criminal record as well as a high school diploma, GED, or an honorable discharge from the military. DACA aids over 800,000 of these upstanding people in cultivating jobs, homes, families, friendships—whole lives—without fear of being ripped away from the country they’ve grown up in. Wait, scratch that—aided. Because on September 5, 2017, Donald Trump decided to kill the program and end protection for those involuntarily brought to the United States by their illegal parents. He turned the Statue of Liberty inward—liberty and justice only for the “all” already enclosed between the East and West Coasts. And even though DACA won’t be officially shut down for another six months—the government is still deciding if current recipients will be able to remain in the U.S or if they will be shipped off to “home countries” they hardly remember—Trump’s decision still has devastating ramifications on America’s political, economic, and moral situation today that will alter our country forever.

First, a bit of history: serious discussion of immigration reform for illegal minors in its current form began with the proposal of the DREAM Act in 2001. An acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act, DREAM aimed to grant illegal minors conditional residency in the United States and, if they met a series of further standards, would make them permanent American citizens. Requiring proof of U.S. entry before age 16, completion of at least two years of college or military service, and evidence of good moral character, among other qualifications, was, however, not enough to convince Congress of the bill’s effectiveness in keeping out the bad hombres and nasty women of the world. Each time the bill was introduced, no matter what edits were made, it failed to pass—that is, until Barack Obama became president for a second term in 2012. In June of that year, he issued an executive order offering protection—NOT citizenship—to aliens who fit nearly identical criteria to that of the DREAM Act called the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program; the two initiatives are so similar that recipients of DACA’s aid are referred to as DREAMers to this day.

DREAMers, by definition, entered the United States as young children—in fact, a study by the political science department at the University of California, San Diego found that 54 percent of DACA’s recipients were under seven years old when they first came to America. These kids obviously attained some level of schooling here, whether that began at age three in a colorful preschool classroom alongside miniature versions of us or, more rarely, during the torture chamber that is junior year of high school. They write, read, and speak English with a voracity and talent unmatched by some natural-born Americans. They laugh at Bridesmaids, cry over Marley & Me, freak out about Game of Thrones… they’re just like you, or your friends, or your family, or anyone you may meet standing in the Starbucks line. They’re Americans. Their entire lives—their friends; their families, whether that’s siblings, parents, or children of their own; their jobs—are in America. It’s their home. Imagine if the president suddenly told you that you don’t deserve to work or live in this country because someone up your family tree had the audacity to wish for a better life by moving here. How would you feel? Because just like you, present and future DREAMers had no say about living in America. None. They came as children. They did nothing more than accept the lives their parents fought to get for them. How is that wrong? Our constitution, written on the basis of providing liberty, justice, and equality to all, states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” DACA is a modern-day interpretation of this American dream our country was founded on: that everyone, regardless of from where you come, should have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that one of the major incentives for ending DACA is to protect our nation from those who put it at risk of crime, violence, and terrorism. But one of the foundational criteria for entering into DACA aid is a spotless record—even one significant misdemeanor retracts all protection from deportation. Overall only 1500 people have been removed from DACA’s aid due to a criminal offense, which is .2% of the total number of immigrants accepted. DREAMers actually have a lower incarceration rate than natural-born Americans of the same age and education level! Furthermore, a survey of 3000 DACA recipients conducted by the Center for American Progress found that nine out of ten respondents held stable jobs and 72 percent were enrolled in college. Not really the type of behavior one would associate with crime and terrorism, is it? Detractors also rant about the negative effects DACA and immigration as a whole has on the United States economy and job market. Unfortunately for both them and Trump, who is very focused on strengthening the American economy, the United States GDP will decrease by $460 billion over ten years with the removal of DACA. Companies will also spend upwards of $3.4 billion trying to replace lost workers and contributions to Medicaid and Social Security will drop by $24.6 billion over the next ten years with the loss of DREAMers’ income tax payments. That’s a total loss of nearly $490 billion from the U.S. economy. BILLION. To put it in perspective, Poland’s entire GDP is only $467 billion. We would lose an entire Poland’s worth of money.

Since want for less crime and a better economy clearly are not reasonable factors in DACA’s removal, the question of why there is so much opposition to the program is raised yet again. In general, DACA denouncers proclaim the program’s status as an executive order—meaning it was not approved by Congress—as the true motivation for their hatred. But if they truly are opposed to what they see as an unconstitutional overreach of presidential power, where were they when Donald Trump issued an executive order banning the entry of Muslims into the United States in January? Or when he barred transgender Americans from serving in the military and cut off all funding for medical treatment of transgender individuals already in the military even though the budget for the troops’ Viagra is over five times that of trans people’s medical expenses ($41.8 million for Viagra and just over $8 million for trans people)? What about when Trump issued more executive orders in his first 100 days than any other president in American history? Clearly, Trump and his supporters’ real problem with DACA lies in the fact that it is a sign of a progression towards an America that offers no special treatment to them and instead practices true liberty and justice for all.

In the end, your opinions on Trump, immigration, or politics in general shouldn’t have any bearing on your view on DACA’s removal. Instead, America should see this decision as a violation of basic human decency in direct opposition to our Constitution and government as a whole. As we turn our backs on the immigrants that shaped our banking systems and government (Alexander Hamilton, one of our Founding Fathers and an immigrant from the West Indies), wrote our songs of national pride (Irving Berlin, composer and lyricist for “God Bless America” and a Jewish immigrant from Belarus), and, if you’re not Native American, are responsible for your existence in this country, we demolish the pillars of freedom, hard work, and justice that have held America up since we first began fighting for our freedom in 1776. Our Founding Fathers are crying. Regardless of political party, we should be too.