Linda Qiu writes:
“Defenders of President Trump’s decision to rescind an Obama-era immigration policy that shielded young immigrants from deportation have offered misleading critiques of the program.
They say the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, known as DACA, led to a humanitarian crisis on the border, put native-born Americans out of work and conferred legal status to recipients. Here’s an assessment.
DACA does not specifically grant legal permanent residency or citizenship, but there are pathways for recipients.
Conservative news personalities have suggested that DACA leads to citizenship or that recipients are eligible. These claims require more context.
DACA grants recipients work permission and protects them from deportation, but it alone does not confer citizenship or legal permanent resident status. They are not granted legal status, according to the Department of Homeland Security, though their removals are deferred.
But, according to immigration data, just under 40,000 DACA recipients have obtained “green cards,” or legal permanent residency, and over 1,000 have become American citizens. This is possible because DACA recipients can change their immigration status through a legal basis other than DACA (like marrying an American citizen).
While immigration law bars people who overstayed their visa from returning to the United States for three or 10 years, depending on how long they have resided here unlawfully, DACA halts recipients’ accrual of “unlawful presence.” So someone who obtained DACA status before the re-entry penalty was triggered would remain protected from it.
DACA recipients who entered the country illegally cannot apply for residency the same way as people who entered legally and overstayed their visas. They can, however, apply for “advance parole,” which gives recipients permission to travel outside the United States under special circumstances and is not specific to DACA. When they return to the United States, they enter legally, opening up other avenues for legal status.
It’s misleading to suggest that DACA triggered a wave of migration from Central America.
In a statement, Mr. Trump blamed DACA for spurring “the massive surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America,” a claim echoed by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and other Republican lawmakers. But the link between DACA and the humanitarian crisis in 2014 is largely anecdotal and overstated.
Nearly 70,000 children, overwhelmingly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, tried to cross the United States border alone in the 2014 fiscal year. They would not have qualified for DACA, a program for undocumented immigrants brought in before age 16 who had been living in the United States since 2007.
There were certainly reports of children who listed American immigration policy as having prompted their solo journeys. The Obama administration’s clarification that the minors were not eligible for DACA also suggests a need to swat away the notion. And researchers have noted the possibility that DACA might have given migrants hope that the United States could provide future reprieve from deportation.
Still, it’s a stretch to say DACA was the single or even the main motivating factor behind the surge in migrant children reaching the border. For one, Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran applications for asylum to other Central American countries increased by 1,185 percent from 2008 to 2014, showing that the children were seeking relief not only in the United States.
More significant drivers of the migration were violence, poverty, gang presence, economic opportunity and the desire to be reunified with family, and “it remains unclear if, and how, specific immigration policies have motivated children to migrate to the United States,” according to a 2014 Congressional Research Service report.
Department of Homeland Security data also shows that the surge in unaccompanied minors preceded President Barack Obama’s June 2012 DACA executive order. The number of apprehensions began to rise in January 2012 and plateaued from June 2012 to January 2013, before increasing and then peaking in May and June of 2014.
The evidence that DACA recipients have displaced native-born workers is lacking.
According to Mr. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, more than four million unemployed Americans in the same age group as DACA recipients “could possibly have those jobs” held by DACA recipients. And Mr. Sessions was more emphatic: The executive order “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
While it’s certainly possible that there are individual cases of an employer hiring a DACA recipient instead of an American citizen, the claim of a widespread trend is unproved.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that trends in foreign-born and native-born unemployment rates have not changed with DACA. For example, the unemployment rate for natives who had attended college was lower than their foreign-born peers both before and after 2012, while the unemployment rate for natives without a high school diploma has consistently been higher than the foreign-born population.
Similarly, DACA appears to have had no discernible effect on the number of total job openings or those specifically in white collar industries — where DACA recipients are more commonly employed — which have been steadily rising since mid-2009. Economists dispute the overarching argument that less immigration leads to more jobs for Americans.
The defense that Mr. Trump’s order does not open up DACA recipients to deportation is false.
Rescinding DACA will not lead to the “mass deportation of people,” the conservative radio host and author Laura Ingraham said in an interview on Fox News. Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, argued on CNN that the “only folks that are subject to deportation right now are those that have engaged in criminal activity.”
Mr. Jordan’s claim is false. The Department of Homeland Security has been clear that officials will potentially arrest and deport any undocumented immigrant without protected status, regardless of a criminal record. Though undocumented immigrants with criminal records still make up the majority of immigration arrests, noncriminal arrests more than doubled in Mr. Trump’s first 100 days as president, compared to the same time period in 2016.
Immigration lawyers say it’s too early to tell whether DACA recipients, who had to provide personal information to officials to apply for the status, will especially be at risk after Mr. Trump’s order. Previously, their information was “protected from disclosure” to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection for the purpose of enforcement. The order, however, notes that information “will not be proactively provided to ICE and CBP,” and the president has said that former recipients would not be a priority for deportation.
“It’s very unclear to me whether U.S.C.I.S. will share that information if ICE affirmatively asks,” said Kate Voigt of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, referring to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is clear, though, that Mr. Trump’s order rescinding DACA opens recipients up to deportation.”
Truth is that DACA is good for the U.S. But, truth seldom, if ever, enters into the restrictionist White Nationalist narrative.