This year’s U.S. Supreme Court session will be distinguished by landmark cases that will direct the future of American society in an era plagued with uncertainty, injustice and virulence. In the hands of nine justices rests the fate of almost 700,000 young Americans, including many current Hoyas, through three consolidated cases.
The Supreme Court is poised first to determine whether it is authorized to decide on the constitutionality of the President Donald Trump administration’s repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and, second, whether the Department of Homeland Security is permitted to end the program. Terminating DACA would not only have devastating repercussions on the lives of individuals and families who depend on the program’s provisions, but would also harm the American economy and ultimately corrupt the fundamental principles that define our nation.
Former President Barack Obama established DACA in 2012 to protect young adults without documentation who immigrated to the United States as children. The program extends legal protection against deportation for those who meet various criteria, including educational requirements or military service, and pass a criminal history and background check. Once their application is approved, DACA recipients are able to obtain driver’s licenses, legally work and access government benefits, including health care.
Enabling young adults without documentation to live dignified and fulfilling lives in the United States not only reinforces American ideals of diversity and inclusivity, but also strengthens the American economy. A February 2018 report by the Democrats of the Committee on Small Business estimates that deporting DACA recipients, or Dreamers, could cost the United States $460 billion in economic output over the subsequent decade. With employment rates well over 90% and $2 billion contributed in local and state taxes each year from DACA recipients, Dreamers are undoubtedly well-educated, hardworking and invaluable participants of the American economy.
In fact, Trump himself tweeted about Dreamers in 2017, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!……”
Reneging on his promise of keeping DACA, Trump has now embarked on a campaign to dismantle its provisions by attacking the legality of its institution in the first place. Specifically, Trump is criticizing Obama for issuing an executive branch memorandum to circumnavigate extant immigration laws, a course of action he argues is unconstitutional.
Though Trump’s stance on DACA unpredictably oscillates between two extremes, the Obama administration did not intend for DACA to be the ultimate resolution to U.S. immigration issues. When first announcing the program, Obama described it as a “temporary stopgap measure,” as it simply delays any action on an individual’s immigration status for two years. The initiative was intended to protect undocumented individuals until Congress passed more comprehensive legislation. Regardless of the policy’s origins, given the failure of this administration and Congress to enact appropriate and effective immigration laws, stripping away this temporary provision without permanent protections in place is nonsensical and draconian.
If the Supreme Court decides DACA was an unconstitutional exercise of executive power, Dreamers will lose protection against deportation, work authorization, driver’s licenses and access to higher education. Although Georgetown admits undocumented students even if they are not protected by DACA, there are many institutions that will only admit DACA recipients. As individuals’ DACA protections expire though their lives in the United States are well-established, the stark reality that many young Americans face is daunting. The joint inaction by the administration and Congress has left thousands of individuals in a precarious limbo subject to the Supreme Court’s review.
On the Hilltop, this review threatens the lives of many accomplished and inspiring Hoyas. Students without documentation bring a unique lived experience to our campus, to which many of us may not be able to relate to but from which we can certainly all learn. The university has demonstrated its commitment to protecting students without documentation, but the reversal of DACA will make it exceedingly difficult for the institution to sustain these provisions.
As a student body, we must recognize that the decision resulting from the oral arguments Nov. 12 will directly shape the politics of our city and the composition of our community. We should be looking to the court to determine whether hatred and ignorance have fundamentally distorted our society or whether justice and morality prevail to preserve the America that is exalted, not undermined, by diversity.
Mahima Chaudhary is a senior in the College.