Opposing DACA: More than Just Prejudice?

Everyone is buzzing about Trump’s decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The policy was put into place by Barack Obama, shielding undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children from deportation, if they meet certain conditions. Congress had repeatedly failed to enact legislation (the DREAM Act) that would accomplish basically the same thing, so Obama took matters into his own hands.

I think DACA’s policy goals are good. But I’m skeptical of its constitutionality. Because of that, I don’t necessarily disagree with Trump’s decision to end it, but I do think that it is necessary for Congress to step in and pass the DREAM Act like they should have long ago.

Of course, there will always be those who oppose anything resembling amnesty, preferring to deport thousands of people who have spent most of their lives in the United States to countries they don’t even remember. For some people, getting rid of illegal aliens is an end in itself, worth doing regardless of the costs, both human and monetary.

I think these people are either dreadfully misinformed or blinded by prejudice. Their desire to get rid of illegal aliens prevents them from asking the following important question: Is it really in our interest to get rid of all the DREAMers? Given that the policy requires that applicants be of “good moral character,” it’s not like they are running around committing crimes. If they did so, they would lose their protected status. Most of them are educated and employed, making a significant contribution to the economy. Moreover, many of them have been here so long that they’re basically American in every way except in the eyes of the law.

I have yet to see a good nonlegal argument against DACA. Generally, such arguments seem to depend on outright lies regarding the beneficiaries of DACA. References to crime and refusal to adopt our values just don’t make sense when discussing this particular policy, because the policy itself places requirements on those it shields from deportation. It’s not a blanket amnesty. It’s conditional forbearance.

Which is why it’s hard not to think that certain of DACA’s opponents are motivated more by prejudice than by anything else. For example, Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration (yes, you read that right) released a letter explaining why they are in favor of rescinding DACA.

It is easier to speak publically of mercy, as we, and many, do. And, while loving mercy, who will also stand for justice to those citizens who cannot find a job due to cheaper foreign labor? Who will speak of the real cost of illegal immigration to our states? And while many non-citizens are good neighbors, who will stand for justice for Americans victimized by people here illegally who do not uphold our values and laws? And who will prevent more needless crime and death?

This is basically saying, “We should get rid of DACA because the DREAMers are stealing our jobs, committing crimes, and burdening our government.” But there is no reason to think that any of this is true. Indeed, the data suggest that deporting DREAMers would seriously hurt the economy, and that they have a low crime rate.

So what’s really going on here? Are the signatories to the EBI letter just ignorant, or is there something more sinister beneath the surface? I don’t like attributing unsavory motives to anyone without good reason. But I just can’t see any compelling reason to adopt the position that EBI has adopted. It’s one thing to oppose the abuse of executive power. But opposing reasonable protections for people who themselves have done nothing wrong is something else entirely.


5 thoughts on “Opposing DACA: More than Just Prejudice?”

  1. You wrote, “For some people, getting rid of illegal aliens is an end in itself, worth doing regardless of the costs, both human and monetary.” And while this may be true of some people, I do think it may be a vast misrepresentation of most of those people’s views concerning the situation.

    For many people, even people with family who have immigrated, they’re perceiving the DREAM Act and DACA as simply a hand-waving gesture to mass flaunting of existing laws. To accept them or provide legal protection is to grant legal immunization or protection from the law itself.

    It’s similar to the recent Sacramento vote to pay upwards of $1.5 million to gang members to stop committing crimes. Many people are upset not because they believe violent crimes are morally acceptable, but that there is something morally backwards in paying-off gang members to not be violent. With the DREAM Act and DACA, there is a sense in which they feel that those who are disobedient to the law are being rewarded by the law.

    It’ll be a hard swing to persuade those who immigrated legally to support legal benefits for those who immigrated illegally.


    1. I understand the desire to uphold the law. This is why I am much more supportive of the DREAM Act than of DACA. But there are a few things to consider here:

      1. DACA beneficiaries were brought to the country as children, so they really had no say in whether they were going to come into the country. Deporting them would cause them serious harm, and they themselves didn’t really do anything to merit punishment.

      2. Whereas committing a violent crime is obviously immoral, I don’t think that violating United States immigration law is necessarily immoral. I think that’s a factor that should inform how we respond to violations of immigration law. There should be at least some room for discretionary lenity, as there is for all kinds of crimes.

      3. I understand that DACA recipients can receive some government benefits, but the main issue is that I don’t think they should be deported. And it’s not like they’re a leech on the economy. If anything, their presence is helping.


      1. Well, I think a few of your points are well-placed, but I find a few of them contingent on some perhaps incorrect assumptions, especially concerning law.

        1. I’m not entirely sure if I understand this point. Let me provide a few ways of thinking this through, and let me know if any one of them lands on your meaning.

        – We could understand that parents brought their children into the United States under DACA. Since the parents are the ones who agreed to the stipulations of DACA, the children, who are still children, should not bear the responsibility of their parents agreement.

        I’m not sure if this is a valid legal point because then the question arises, “If the children can no longer reside in the United States, and the parents decide not to be with their children on their own free will, is it the United State’s moral calamity?”

        – Imagine the same as above, but those children are no longer children. At some point, and if you’ve studied any social contract theorist, there is a point at which the social agreement passes from parent to child, and the child must now bear responsibility. So then the situation is, “Since the parents are the ones who agreed to the stipulations of DACA, the children, who are no longer children and are accepting benefits of DACA, should not bear the responsibility of their parents agreement.”

        I’m not sure if this is a valid legal argument. If this sort of legal argument came to take any form of legal weight, then there would be almost limitless ways in which we could nullify any legal agreement formed prior to that individual’s “age of consent”. This could span city, state, and national law.

        What would remain is the question of harm. But this question isn’t a question of DACA agreement, but if there is “reasonable” doubt that it is too burdensome and too harmful (as the government would have the prerogative to enforce laws that are harmful).

        2. I would grant this point. And I think considerations should be made on how we treat established illegal immigrants. I’m not sure if nullification of law is one of them.

        3. I don’t think it’s a question of “can” but “do” – that’s the issue we’re facing with the expiration of DACA, the withdrawing of the legal immunity and protection, and government assistance.

        But then again, it seems that your point really comes down to this – I agree with the removal of DACA, but I’m not sure if deportation is the correct response.

        I don’t know if I would agree that it is either, but I think what we should be doing is identifying where immigrants are coming from and attempt to provide assistance to those countries by way of legal, economic, cultural, and political reform.


      2. 1. The first point isn’t really meant to be a legal argument. Under current law, DACA recipients do not have legal status and have no legal right to be here. Current law (ignoring DACA, which I consider to be unlawful) requires them to be deported. I support the DREAM Act because it would change current law to accommodate some of these people.

        I’m not proposing nullification of any kind, which is why I oppose DACA. But Congress has the lawful authority to grant a limited form of amnesty for some illegal immigrants as part of its broader power to pass laws on immigration. This isn’t nullification, but legislation.

        My main point is that such legislation is desirable because DACA recipients are in a terrible position through no fault of their own. Their parents brought them to the country when they were children, and they grew up here. Everything they know is here. But under current law, they face deportation. Absent a compelling reason to get rid of them, I don’t see why we shouldn’t modify the law to conditionally accommodate at least some of them.

        2. Again, I’m against nullification. I want Congress to pass legislation. I explicitly say that I agree with constitutional arguments against DACA. I only disagree with policy arguments against DACA and the DREAM Act.

        3. Yes, the solution to our immigration problems is multifaceted. It would be great if the economic situation could improve elsewhere in the world so that there was no reason to flee for the United States. But we can’t control that. And for many, perhaps most, Dreamers, sending them back where they came from years ago is not a good option for anyone. It’s catastrophic for them, because they’re really not that different from American citizens, having lived here for most of their lives. And it’s at least somewhat harmful to us, economically.

        I want long-term solutions to immigration that are lawful, not short-term unconstitutional stopgaps like DACA. The DREAM Act is more of a solution for the short-term problem of childhood arrivals and how we should deal with them, and Congress will have to act in other ways (improve border security, in particular) to ensure that this doesn’t continue being a huge problem.


  2. I apologize for not responding sooner – graduate school is a bit more heavy handed in reading than I expected.

    1. I understand that this point wasn’t meant to be a legal argument, but I wanted to make note as the the parameters of your response – a hedging in and clarification process. In one sense, I made the case that there doesn’t appear to be any legal basis to support a contrary response (you and I agree), but I made the further point that there appears to also be no philosophical grounding for it (ie. contractual point, so yes, children should be held responsible, to some degree, for the contracts their parents agree to). While I do recognize an intimate connection between law and the philosophical justifications that may compel legal action (through congressional legislation or judicial interpretation), they are not united in an indistinguishable way.

    This narrows down the justification to really one central point – is it “fair” to deport them. But the “fairness” point is not rooted either in legal or the philosophical justification but, not to be seen in a negative light, emotional or charitable grounding. And I think we can agree that such a foundation is not of primary concern for national politics, especially concerning immigration. Now, some people will have read this and say, “Oh, so governments should not be charitable.” That is not at all what I am saying, but that it is not the central and primary concern. When we look at the current immigration problem, we are seeing a conflict of law and order on side, and a certain element of charity on the other. However, reverting to my original point, charity isn’t solely on the behalf of those who seek some form of amnesty, but also on the side of those who seek law and order – as law and order, in its pursuit of justice, is a form of charity. It is, to repeat a previous point, to ask the question, “Is it fair for those who didn’t pursue the legal avenues of citizenship, to be granted citizenship?”

    2. I think this point has been satisfactorily addressed.

    3. I’m thinking you’re underestimating the political, economical, and militaristic influence the United States has in the world. Pressuring countries for social reform, especially within and below our continent, isn’t as far-fetched as some would believe. It may be controversial, but I’m not opposed to the United States holding countries responsible for massive moral outrage within their own borders by means of with-holding American aid, trade, and other benefits.

    I think the strongest argument for your point is the question concerning those who were essentially “American” in every aspect but citizenship. Those who grew up here. And I think that is where we should work to clarify what that means and what should happen to those who do not fall into that category. For example, a proposal that would argue that those under “their parents custody” (By the United States definition), and would therefore be expected to go back with their parents, would not fall under that category.


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