Since taking office, President Trump has rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan. Altogether, these measures would strip legal status from about 1.1 million immigrants who are in our workforce, schools and universities, and are contributing to our communities.
On Saturday, January 20, 2019, President Trump offered to end the government shutdown by exchanging a temporary, three year, restoration of legal status for DACA and TPS holders for the $5.7 billion he demands for a border wall that most in the U.S. oppose. He also proposed creating a system for immigrant youth from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who are afraid of gang violence to apply for U.S. protection from within their countries. He neglected to mention that such a system already existed when he took office, and his administration ended it.
At best, this cannot be considered a serious, good faith offer. At worst, it is cynical and cruel. These 1.1 million people have long contributed to our nation. For example, Hondurans have had TPS for over twenty years. Like them, DACA recipients are working and paying taxes, and many are pursuing college and graduate degrees. We need all of these individuals to keep our aging communities vibrant and to shore up our shrinking labor force. They deserve an offer of a path to permanent legal status, not the uncertainty of a three year reprieve. In addition, the economic costs to the U.S. if DACA and TPS holders cannot remain permanently are in the billions.
Moreover, President Trump said in late 2017 and early 2018 that he was willing to make a deal for permanent status for DACA holders in exchange for more border security. When a bipartisan proposal with those elements was hammered out, President Trump moved the goalposts, refusing to sign any bill that didn’t include slashing immediate family immigration and eliminating the diversity lottery.
More than half of the current undocumented population entered the U.S. legally with visas and “overstayed”. Constructing more border wall will do nothing to address that reality. Congress cannot capitulate to the President’s demands . Both sides instead need to negotiate real proposals for immigration reform. This weekend’s offer was a non-starter.