Under siege, DACA needs urgent protection

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Undocumented students’ future hangs precariously in the balance.

Illustration of White House and Supreme Court with student carrying sign that says "defend DACA"
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the leadership of the most powerful nation in the world seems intent on stripping opportunity from youth. But then again, do we expect much from this administration when it comes to empathy?  

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is a program that enables young people who were brought into the United States illegally as children to obtain work authorization and shields them from deportation. For undocumented youth, DACA represents a fighting chance to stay and contribute to the country they’ve known most of their lives. 

And that very chance is dangerously under siege.

Given that the U.S. Supreme Court is actively considering rescinding DACA, UC President Janet Napolitano — one of the architects of DACA while serving as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security — appeared before court Nov. 12 to argue in its defense. In addition to the UC Board of Regents’ existing lawsuit over the legality of DACA, Napolitano’s in-person advocacy is another heartening show of support for undocumented students in the UC system, which is home to about 1,700 DACA recipients. 

There’s a disappointing amount of rhetoric swirling throughout the country, trying to argue that immigrants encroach on society without doing their part. But if anything, DACA recipients prove that immigrants are doing exactly the opposite. In order to qualify for DACA, young adults must be enrolled in school and have no criminal record. And if people still don’t care about the youth, then maybe this will catch your attention: Rescinding DACA would cause an estimated $460.3 billion in losses to the national gross domestic product over 10 years, a staggering blow to the U.S. economy. It’s pretty obvious that depriving hardworking individuals of the chance to get a degree and join the workforce would have adverse effects on society at large.

The court is still currently deliberating and it might be a while before we have a concrete decision, but it’s possible that DACA could get rescinded. Yes, DACA’s legislative focus is on work authorization but if DACA is thrown out, students might find their life plans upended without any kind of protection. In the worst-case situation, 700,000 DACA recipients will face the very real threat of deportation. 

As DACA’s future hangs in the balance, it’s imperative now more than ever that the UC system devotes extra resources toward legal counsel and aid for students who may be impacted. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that point but in the event that the court rules against DACA, a significant number of students may find themselves wondering if they’ll be able to continue attending a UC school at all. Having enough experienced immigration lawyers available would at least mitigate some of the stress that impacted students might endure in that scenario. 

It’s unimaginably nerve-wracking to have the most powerful forces in the nation acting against you, but there is also a coalition of institutions fighting to preserve that chance. It’s up to all of us, including the university, to keep fighting.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2019 opinion editor, Revati Thatte.