By Dr. Vishnu Bisram
There is widespread opposition to the President Trump’s action to end DACA (Deferred Action in Childhood Arrivals) amongst Guyanese and Trinidadian New Yorkers, and the larger Caribbean and South Asian communities.
Caribbean American politicians have also criticized the administration’s actions. Immigrant groups and many born Americans have condemned the action of the Republican Donald Trump administration for discontinuing DACA, an Obama-era immigration reform measure that protected from deportation people who had entered the U.S. illegally as children.
DACA allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S as children, called Dreamers, to apply for a temporary but renewable relief from deportation, and to apply for work permits. As reported, Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced on Sept 5 that DACA will come to an end in six months unless Congress acts to regularize it. Caribbean people feel it is a bad and inhumane policy especially that DACA beneficiaries are not troublemakers and have not been afoul of American laws. They also point out that ending DACA does not financially benefit the US, and in fact, the country stands to lose tens of billions of dollars annually as DACA ends.
DACA was implemented by President Obama shortly after his re-election in 2012 following the failure of Congress to legislate immigration reform on Dreamers and other illegal immigrants. It has granted reprieve to some 800,000 young adults (mostly Mexicans and other Hispanics but includes other nationals as well) to pursue education and career opportunities in America.
The program gives beneficiaries Social Security numbers to work and renewable two-year work permits as well as opportunities to pursue higher education. It is not known exactly how many Guyanese or Trinis or Anglophone CARICOM nationals were beneficiaries of DACA. But it is estimated that about a thousand Guyanese and several thousand other Caribbean persons filed for DACA, according to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.
In conversations with Caribbean and South Asian immigration lawyers and Guyanese and Trini community leaders, the general consensus is that ending DACA would break up families and hurt their standard of living since DACA persons would no longer be able to work legally to earn money. In addition, it would force law abiding immigrants to go underground to protect themselves from deportation. It will also hurt the economy as the DACA persons are economically productive and are taxpayers and they won’t be able to make legal contributions to the productive sectors. The DACA beneficiaries contribute to economic growth through their employment and participation in new businesses. Some own businesses employing America citizens.
Some also contribute in the creation of new products, the arts and STEM research.
Immigrant groups have been staging protests all over the US in recent weeks in response to a threat from the attorneys general (AG) of ten Southern Republican controlled states to legally challenge DACA unless Trump ends it by September 5. So the President acted on that day.
There is national support for DACA. According to poll by NBC News, 64% support DACA. Also, reports point to support from a coalition of 1,850 U.S. politicians, law enforcement officers, and faith leaders including at least five state attorneys general, eight governors, 130 mayors, and 230 state legislators. They signed a letter in support of DACA urging the President not to end it. New York’s Mayor Bill DiBlasio also supports DACA. But Trump went ahead to bring the program to an end and urging Congress to take legislative action on Dreamers.
Meanwhile, the AGs of fifteen Democratic led states plus Washington DC have filed a lawsuit in New York challenging the President’s decision to end DACA. They condemn the action as racist (anti-Mexican) which is the main argument in the lawsuit.
Another lawsuit is contending that the President and his AG have not followed proper procedures in ending DACA; this lawsuit contends that the Administration has to first announce its intention to end the program and provide a month for public response before taking action. Legal sources say the President has to show he acted in good faith to any responses. They feel this has not been done. And separately, California, which has the largest number of DACA applicants, plans to file its own lawsuit against the Administration for moving to end the program; the AG of that state has not announced the reason for a planned lawsuit.
Guyanese and Trini community leaders say eliminating DACA is reprehensible to put the future of these young people in jeopardy. They feel that the action by the administration put it in a bad light. “It shows they have no heart”, said one pandit. It is cruel and heartbreaking to send these young people back to their homelands, added several other critics.
It is noted that the Dreamers have no link to the country where they were born; they have lived all their life in America. Guyanese and other immigrant groups are urging the President to roll back his anti-DACA policy. They would also like Congress to grant them amnesty to live permanently in the U.S.