By Heather Smith, Executive Director
President Trump’s announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a cruel development for Dreamers and a damaging decision for all of us in South Dakota and across America.
Five years ago, the federal government made a deal with undocumented immigrant youth who had arrived here as kids and grown up as Americans: as long as you pass a criminal background check you can live, study, and work here. Hundreds of thousands of young people came out of the shadows and accepted the government’s offer in good faith and worked hard to build their lives here. That includes nearly 300 in South Dakota alone.
DACA has allowed Dreamers to gain diplomas, earn a paycheck, start businesses, purchase homes, and fully contribute to this nation they call home. DACA also has provided daily peace of mind that they wouldn’t be deported back to a country they barely remember for driving with a broken taillight.
But now, with President Trump’s announcement, our government has gone back on its word to these Dreamers, and thrown the lives and futures of 800,000 people into disarray. The end of DACA also ensures chaos in thousands of workplaces across America as DACAmented workers lose their work permits in small businesses and Fortune 50 companies alike. In South Dakota alone, the end of DACA is projected to cost us over $12 million in lost annual GDP. Given that the United States government has repeatedly — and successfully — defended the legal validity of DACA, today’s news also amounts to a complete reversal of the United States’ own consistent legal positions.
But the legal arguments and economic projections aren’t as important as a simple question - what kind of country do we want to be? Unlike President Trump, the vision of America that I was raised to believe in sides with Dreamers instead of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
While today is a sad day for Dreamers, their courage, industry, and organizing won the DACA program in 2012. Nothing will deter them - or us - from continuing to fight for their families and their futures. This means that we all need to call on Congress to pass the clean, standalone, and bipartisan Dream Act that addresses Dreamers’ renewed vulnerability to deportation and provides a permanent path to citizenship for these aspiring Americans. Lawmakers such as Representative Noem, Senator Rounds, and Senator Thune must decide if they are on the side of Dreamers or on the side of the ugly forces that helped to end DACA.
In this moment of truth, I stand with Dreamers in South Dakota and across America.