I am disappointed and angry about President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
It has been 31 years since Congress last passed immigration legislation. It has been clear now for many years that our current system is in need of reform (to put it politely), broken (to put it bluntly) — and yet Congress has not acted. Everyone agrees that our immigration laws are broken but in our current polarized political environment this seems to be about all we are able to agree on. Because of our history of lax border security and a legal immigration system that works so slowly and capriciously as to make it clear to individuals who would wish to immigrate legally that there was no chance of being granted entry, we are left with a legacy of millions who came here illegally and millions of their children.
How to treat those who chose, as adults, to break our immigration laws and come here illegally is a difficult question. But how to treat those who were brought here as children — who did not on their own make a choice to break our law — and who have been a normal functioning part of our schools, communities, armed forces and workforce now for many years — should not be a difficult question. To punish these individuals is morally wrong. And to punish them with the degree of punishment that is inherent in being deported, that is, being forced from your community, school, extended family and educational skill set to be banished to a distant location where you have none of those, and may possibly not even speak the language — is horribly wrong.
To ask a minority group to register with the government, with the initial promise that the registration would put them square with the law, and then to rescind that promise, with no guarantee against that very registration itself being used at some future point to locate and deport them is a chilling echo of the sequence of events followed by the Nazis who first required registration of minorities they blamed for the country’s problems, then after registration, began taking legal action starting with restricting them from certain jobs, then from other civic participation, then progressing on to expulsion, imprisonment and much worse.
When the law itself is broken — then those who have some degree of discretion in how to enforce it (President Trump and the U.S. Department of Justice), ought to do their best to enforce it in a manner that does not punish the innocent, tear apart families and damage our communities economically.
When the law itself is broken, then those who have it within their power to fix that law (Congress) ought to fix it. They ought to have fixed it long ago, but since it is too late for that, they ought to rise to the occasion and fix it now.
Knowing that legislation that fixes our immigration laws will not be easy and could take many forms — some very broad and some very narrow — and that even if an honest congressional effort started now to come to a solution, it could be months before the shape of legislation that could pass both the House and the Senate comes in to focus. I hope that our federal delegation will be willing to publically state that they believe that those who were brought to our country as children, who have been here now continuously for more than 10 years, who have completed high school and have committed no crimes (which are the things required to be a part of the DACA program), should not be punished, and that they will commit to work to see that through to a fair outcome.
Raymond Ward represents House District 19 (Bountiful) in the Utah State Legislature.