The Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Obama administration era policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has pushed immigration back into the forefront of political discourse. In result, The University of Rhode Island College Democrats hope to help shape this national debate.
DREAMer advocates, including URI College Democrats’ President Andy Boardman, describe how Trump administration’s decision has created “a state of disorder among the 800,000 Dreamers.”
According to National Immigration Law Center, DACA is a Department of Homeland Security policy from the Obama administration era, that defers the deportation of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as minors for two years, while granting them legal status. DACA recipients, or DREAMers, are also able receive legal working papers and driver’s licenses, and are able to attend institutions of higher education during these two year periods. However, this exemption is only available to undocumented immigrants without criminal records. DREAMers must renew their DACA status every two years in order to maintain these protections.
Boardman and the College Democrats are hopeful that they can “turn passion into action,” according to Boardman. The College Democrats have scheduled a phone-banking session, to call members of Congress over the phone, and lobby on behalf of DREAMers. This meeting will be held in Room 354 in the Memorial Union on Oct. 3 from 6 -7 p.m.
Boardman, and like-minded advocates for DREAMers, believe that DACA is rational and necessary policy to help protect undocumented immigrants who came to this country as minors before they understood fully under they were breaking the law.
Additionally, some advocates like Margo Chernysheva argue that many in the undocumented community, have been unjustly vilified by the Trump administration and his supporters. Advocates for Dreamers underscore this point by highlighting the case of Tayler Ragg, a former Transylvania University student who exposed a fellow student on Facebook as a DACA recipient, with the hopes of encouraging immigration officials to deport her.
Transylvania University has recently issued a statement clarifying “that Mr. Ragg is no longer enrolled at Transylvania University.” The university has yet to make it clear whether Ragg decided to leave, or if the university dismissed him.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has justified the move as an attempt to enforce immigration laws, which in the administration’s view, “saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering,” and to also prevent, “putting our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism.”
URI political science professor Steven Williamson sees the Trump administration’s decision as “extremely counterproductive, and incredibly unfair to jerk [DREAMers] around as political pawns.”
Others, including freshman Derek Carpenter, sympathize with DREAMers who were, “brought here illegally by their parents and didn’t have much or any say.” But, he questions the economics of this issue.
“These jobs are going to people who cheated the system,” Carpenter said. “That’s 800,000 jobs that American citizens could have instead. Eight hundred thousand jobs that immigrants who legally came here and went through the process could have.”
Williamson also makes the case that, “increasing economic growth while decreasing population is impossible, and no country has figured out how to do that.”
A study from the Cato Institute helps to support Williamson’s economic argument. The study calculated the total cost for the federal government to deport all 800,000 Dreamers, and cost the U.S economy. The study reveals that the estimated cost of deportation would cost $60 billion, and cost the U.S economy $260 billion in future economic growth.
Local officials, including Governor Rimando, have taken steps to quell the unease within the undocumented community in Rhode Island. In a tweet last week, the Governor announced the creation of “an initiative to pay DACA renewal fees for every Rhode Island DREAMer who is eligible to apply for renewal by Oct. 5.”
The announced initiative will be funded with donations from individuals and philanthropic groups, to help ease the burden of a $425 renewal fee for each of the Rhode Island Dreamers.
Despite the politics of this move, this administration’s decision to rescind this policy will affect the lives of thousands of DACA recipients nationally, and locally, lives of 1,200 Rhode Islanders; seven of which are URI students. The political decisions that are going to be made in Washington, and in many state capitals, will impact the lives of thousands of DREAMers whose lives hang in the balance.