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There Is No Good Reason To End DACA. Period.

Dreamers Karen Caudillo, 21, of Florida is comforted by Jairo Reyes, 25, of Rogers, Arkansas as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., accompanied by members of the House and Senate Democrats, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. House and Senate Democrats gather to call for Congressional Republicans to stand up to President Trump's decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative by bringing the DREAM Act for a vote on the House and Senate Floor. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Dreamers Karen Caudillo, 21, of Florida is comforted by Jairo Reyes, 25, of Rogers, Arkansas as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., accompanied by members of the House and Senate Democrats, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. House and Senate Democrats gather to call for Congressional Republicans to stand up to President Trump's decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative by bringing the DREAM Act for a vote on the House and Senate Floor. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

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On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration was ending the Obama-era program that gives temporary status to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

Under the program, which is known as Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), those who were under 32 years old, arrived before age 16, graduated from high school or served in the military, and committed no crimes, would be given a work permit and permission to live in the country for a two-year period. (The law says only felonies or serious misdemeanors will disqualify someone from DACA, but in practice, I had a client denied because he had one misdemeanor that had been expunged.)

There is no defense to end DACA based on the benefits it provided. In the five years since the program was enacted, 800,000 young adults seized the opportunity it provided them: 95 percent are currently employed or in school, 70 percent had gone to college, 12 percent bought a home, and 6 percent started a business.

And these DACA recipients paid $2 billion in federal and state taxes since 2012 alone.

House and Senate Democrats gather on Capital Hill, on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, to call for Congressional Republicans to stand up to President Trump's decision to terminate the DACA initiative by bringing the DREAM Act for a vote on the House and Senate Floor. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)
House and Senate Democrats gather on Capital Hill, on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, to call for Congressional Republicans to stand up to President Trump's decision to terminate the DACA initiative by bringing the DREAM Act for a vote on the House and Senate Floor. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

With the end of DACA, these young people have no means to stay here. They will either wait to be arrested and deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or they will leave on their own accord — which is what the Republican position on immigration policy has been for the past 20 years. In the 2012 debates, for instance, Mitt Romney explained that although he does not support legalization, he will not give legal status to those without it. Instead of rounding people up, he said he was in favor of what he called "self-deportation."

President Trump has shown us what exactly it means to pursue deportation over legalization. ICE officers are now in state courts arresting victims of human-trafficking, in hospitals picking up cancer patients, and in immigration offices arresting those who are actually in the proverbial line applying for status.

Under the new priority-free deportation policies, ICE is now targeting for deportation combat veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and a 9/11 volunteer who sifted through the World Trade Center rubble and is now permanently disabled from inhaling the debris. (These heroes most often committed nonviolent drug crimes. It is quite puzzling that we continue to deport long-term residents for drug crimes given that, opioid addiction is often met with treatment and marijuana is trending towards legalization.)

We will now add the Dreamers to that list of those we will force out of our country because we can.

My father’s favorite saying is that no matter how flat the pancake, there are two sides. But Trump’s enforcement-only immigration policy is getting to be a pretty flat pancake that might defy that rule.

The only reason for ending DACA comes from those who support closed borders — voices once in the margins who are now heard in the mainstream. And their position is grounded in opposition to any type of immigration — legal or otherwise.

The platitudes of "America first" have superficial appeal until we realize our retirement depends on immigration policy.

Immigrants — both skilled and unskilled — are needed for our economy to thrive. The American Action Forum estimates that immigrants contribute $1 trillion to our gross domestic product.

Immigrants are twice as likely as citizens to start businesses, our rural hospitals are operating because of the visa program that recruits foreign-born doctors to serve there, and our fruits and vegetables are overwhelmingly planted and harvested by undocumented workers.

More crudely, we do not have enough young workers to pay for our retirement. In 1950, there were 150 workers for every 20 seniors; in 2000, there were 100 workers for every 20 seniors; without immigration, in 2050, there will be only 56 workers for every 20 retirees.

The platitudes of "America first" have superficial appeal until we realize our retirement depends on immigration policy.

If the closed-border activists have their way, the number of young workers will drop even further. In 2013, undocumented immigrants paid $11.8 billion in federal and state taxes, which helped pay for all of our retirement benefits. (You'll recall that our president has bragged about not paying federal income tax for years.)

Returning to DACA, there is no rational defense to end this opportunity for a population that made the most of it and were making the rest of us better off in the process.

Attorney General Sessions says we are a nation of laws. But we are also a nation of compassion, and of legislators who write the damn laws, which the DACA recipients were following until DACA was taken away from them.

For that reason, I hope there are enough moderate Republicans in Congress who will support the bipartisan 2017 Dream Act and make DACA law.

In this case, we can legislate ourselves out of what would be a heartbreaking mess if we do nothing.

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Kari Hong Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Kari Hong is an assistant professor at Boston College Law School

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