Undocumented Lawbreakers: Trump’s Ongoing Attack on DACA


The other day, several news outlets carried an emotional scene from an airport, where an undocumented woman who had been in the United States for 30 years, and given birth to  three children who are American citizens, was being deported. She’d come here as a teenager and was being “returned” to a country she only dimly remembered.

Ah yes! In Donald Trump’s America, we’re getting rid of those dangerous criminals from other countries. It’s particularly rewarding to see ICE ramp up deportation for those who came to the U.S. illegally as two- and four-year-olds, using their criminal parents to carry them over the border. Getting rid of them will make America Great Again–and that’s good, because there are so many things we won’t do to make America great.

We won’t try to make America great by tightening gun laws to cut down on the daily mayhem and violence (caused almost exclusively by angry native-born white guys). We won’t work to make America great by repairing our crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure. We aren’t even willing to make America fair by really reforming the tax code to eliminate loopholes that unnecessarily favor the wealthy, or by raising the minimum wage so that working people can make ends meet, or by ensuring that everyone has access to health care.

No–in Trump’s America, we’re not only deporting people whose only “crime” was coming here without going through a tortuous legal process that can take years, we’re repealing the minimal protections the Obama Administration extended to undocumented persons who were children when they were brought here by their parents.

DACA–Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals–addressed the utter cruelty of uprooting children who had no part in the decision to come here, young people who have been productive and law-abiding, who grew up here and have known no other country. As USA Today recently summarized the measure, DACA

allows two-year stays for certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday who have attended school or joined the military and have not committed any serious crimes.

They receive a renewable two-year period of deportation protections and eligibility for a work permit. Some enrollees are currently on their third term.

There are roughly 800,000 individuals temporarily protected from deportation by the DACA program.

DACA was a short-term, emergency, humanitarian measure extended by President Obama due to persistent Congressional failure to act on desperately needed immigration reforms. Trump’s attack on DACA is further evidence of his willingness to hurt innocent people in furtherance of a white nationalist agenda that–so far as we can tell–is his only agenda. (Other than self-aggrandizement, of course.)

We should certainly deport people who came here illegally and committed serious crimes. We can argue about deporting undocumented people who came here as adults and subsequently committed minor crimes. However, I am unable to conceive of any argument that would justify expelling young people who had no part in the decision to cross the border, who have spent most of their lives in the United States (and often speak only English), and who are contributing to society in a multitude of ways.

One of my students is a DACA enrollee. Her younger brother is an American citizen, born after her parents settled in the United States. She’s an excellent student. She’s also understandably passionate about fixing both immigration law and state laws that burden undocumented persons. She volunteers for several nonprofit organizations, and she knows a lot more about the U.S. Constitution than most of my native-born students. I fail to see how deporting her would make America great.

In fact, deporting her–and those like her–would make America very, very small.


[Originally published at SheilaKennedy.net on November 13, 2017]

Sheila Kennedy is a former high school English teacher, former lawyer, former Republican, former Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU, former columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and former young person. She is currently an (increasingly cranky) old person, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Director of IUPUI’s Center for Civic Literacy. She writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal, PA Times, and the Indiana Word, and blogs at www.sheilakennedy.net. For those who are interested in more detail, links to an abbreviated CV and academic publications can be found on her blog, along with links to her books..


Loading Disqus Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Loading Facebook Comments ...