Anti-immigrant rhetoric has been a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s presidency. From calling Mexicans rapists and drug-smugglers to using words like “invaders” and “animals” to describe asylum-seekers, Trump’s incendiary comments have repeatedly dehumanized vulnerable communities and fostered a culture of bigotry and hate.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that just one day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Trump had improperly tried to shut down DACA, the president proved just how ruthless he is by renewing calls to do just that.
“We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfill the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Trump tweeted on Friday morning.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program allowing immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for renewable, two-year work permits and protection from deportation. Trump announced in 2017 that he was terminating DACA, and after a series of court battles, the case finally reached SCOTUS in November 2019. In a 5-4 decision on Thursday, SCOTUS affirmed the lower court decisions and stated that Trump’s efforts to curtail the program were “arbitrary and capricious.”
That Trump is renewing his efforts to go after the program is not only callous, but it also underscores a fundamental disconnect between him and the majority of the country — and his own party. A recent poll indicates that 69 percent of Republicans, and even 64 percent of Trump supporters, believe recipients of DACA should be shielded from deportation.
“It’s important for people to understand that public sentiment [for DACA] is very high in ways we haven’t seen on other issues,” said Leezia Dhalla, a DACA recipient who grew up in San Antonio. “It’s very concerning when Trump talks about immigrants in a way Congress has rejected and in a way the Supreme Court has rejected.”
DACA recipients are people who have largely grown up in America. They are teachers, healthcare workers, food-service employees and lawyers. They contribute significant tax dollars that pay for schools and public infrastructure. They are law-abiding citizens — with biennial background checks and fingerprints required to renew their status, DACA recipients simply have no margin of error.
As Javier Quiroz Castro put it, DACA recipients are not bad people.
“We’ve been here for so long. I don’t know how many times I have to prove I’m a good person,” says Quiroz, a DACA recipient who works as a nurse in the infectious disease unit at Houston’s Methodist Hospital.
With only a few months until the November elections, it’s unlikely that there is enough time for the Trump administration to knock down DACA. If he were to try, there would undoubtedly be more lawsuits.
Yet, it’s appalling that he is even putting resources towards ending the program — especially in the middle of a global pandemic and a nation-wide reckoning with race and equality in the criminal justice system.
More than 800,000 people have benefited from DACA since the program was introduced in 2012. An analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that more than 200,000 of those individuals are workers on the frontlines COVID-19.
Regardless of what steps Trump takes next, the Supreme Court decision is an important win for Dreamers, and one worthy of acknowledgment.
“It’s a huge amount of relief,” Quiroz said. “I can take a breather and plan a little better financially. To know the Supreme Court is backing us on this is huge.”
DACA recipients know they aren’t in the clear, and there is still work to be done. The Supreme Court decision bought them some time. What they and their advocates want to see next is action on the part of Congress to secure a path to citizenship.
“We need to see people calling their Congress members and saying I support [DACA recipients], and we want to see reforms,” said Mariana Quintero, a Teach for America corps member and DACA recipient residing in Houston. “We need to see a path for citizenship because this is far from over.”
Photo: Corey Sipkin/AFP/Getty Images
Pooja is a contributing writer at the Texas Signal. She is focusing on feature stories that explore and explain the impact of legislation — or lack thereof — on vulnerable communities. Outside of the Texas Signal, Pooja is a staff writer at The Buzz Magazines, a community digital/print magazine in Houston, and is a graduate student in journalism at NYU. Pooja graduated from Yale University in 2016, where she studied psychology and economics and served as City Editor for the Yale Daily News.