Five years ago, the U.S government began implementation of President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order deferring deportation for U.S. residents without papers who were brought here by their parents as children. The nearly 800,000 kids given a reprieve by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, are our children. They attended our schools, played on our high school teams, starred in our school plays and joined debate teams and service clubs. They learned English and have citizen siblings who were born here. They have little or no memory of their country of origin. They are as American as anyone born here.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court was evenly split on the question of the president’s authority to defer deportation for specific groups of people residing here. So at the moment, the legal question of what the president can do about immigration is up in the air, but will surely be revisited. Especially because 10 state attorneys general have come together to threaten President Donald Trump with a lawsuit to force his hand if he does not, by Sept. 5, rescind the policy protecting young people brought to the United States as children.
Yet support for DACA recipients is widespread. Nearly eight in 10 voters support allowing them to remain permanently in the country, including almost three-quarters of Trump voters. Only 14 percent believe they should be forced out.
Pragmatism tells us that mass deportation is economically self-defeating. These people comprise an integral part of our economy. We have already invested in their health care and education that will make them productive workers going forward.
So to drive them away now, just when they are closing in on adulthood and a paying job, contributing to our economy and our tax base, seems motivated only by spite or bigotry. We need immigrants, even those without papers, to continue shoring up our Social Security system.
But the strongest case is the moral one. As Jews, we are taught in our ancient texts to welcome the stranger; and we know what it feels like to be expelled from one’s homeland. Our own government was complicit in denying entry to so many Jews, so American Jews are particularly called to shelter immigrants and refugees.
Rather than respond to an arbitrary deadline intended to ram through a disastrous change in policy, the president and Congress should work to achieve comprehensive reform that includes helping DACA recipients become permanent residents and eventually citizens. We must push back against the xenophobia and racism that too often cloud the making of immigration policy. It’s the right thing to do. JN
Nancy K. Kaufman is the chief executive officer of the National Council of Jewish Women.