There’s no reason people living in our community should be living in fear.
But that’s exactly what’s happened in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, with a six-month window for Congress to act. It only serves to hurt families in a mean-spirited way under the guise of solving part of the nation’s immigration problem. They’re essentially pawns in the ongoing chess game of immigration reform.
Former Vice President Joe Biden put it well when he pointed out that these are children who didn’t choose to come to the United States. They pay taxes, have joined the workforce, and some have even joined the military.
“These people are all Americans,” Mr. Biden wrote after the decision by the Trump administration. “So let’s be clear: Throwing them out is cruel. It is inhumane. And it is not America. Congress and the American people now have an obligation to step up and show our neighbors that they’re welcome here, in the only place they’ve ever called home.”
There are 800,000 people nationally, and fewer than 8,000 in Massachusetts, who have been approved under DACA.
It’s hard to get an exact count on how many so-called Dreamers there are here on Martha’s Vineyard, but we know through past stories we’ve done and anecdotally that there are many. They are strong contributors to our community.
Under President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order, they were able to live openly and come out of the shadows.
Now they’re forced back into hiding, fearful that they could be deported at some point to a country they never called home.
None of it makes any sense.
DACA came with strong, built-in safety mechanisms. Dreamers had to reapply every two years, they couldn’t have felony convictions, school enrollment was required (or a job if they were out of school), and if they went into the military, they would have to be honorably discharged in order to reapply.
Let’s not forget, for the ability to work and go to school in the United States, Dreamers gave the government detailed information, including their date of entry into the country, the length of stay, address, school information, and Social Security numbers.
In a court, an attorney would argue that it’s possibly incriminating evidence that could constitute entrapment should it be used against them.
Take a moment to think about what the Trump administration has done just to the Island of Martha’s Vineyard since taking office.
It limited H-2B visas, not allowing, until the middle of August, returning workers to come back to the Vineyard and work the jobs they’ve been doing for years. See, Donovan. According to the Department of Labor, there were 84,627 H-2B visas issued in 2016. Without the returning-worker exemption, almost 19,000 jobs would have gone unfilled in seasonal U.S. businesses.
It has talked about limiting the J-1 visa program, again a pool of foreign workers that allow Vineyard businesses rely on. According to Sen. Julian Cyr’s office, there are close to 6,000 J-1 students working on the Cape and Islands this summer — many of them filling the gap created by the restricted H-2B visas. About 1,000 of those workers are on Martha’s Vineyard alone.
They do jobs, like housekeeping at inns. Not the kinds of jobs teens or other Islanders are fighting to win.
And, now, this DACA decision could also eliminate Dreamers as part of the workforce.
Not only do they contribute greatly to our economy, but they enrich our communities, as anyone who witnessed the recent immigration exhibit at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum could attest.
The argument by the Trump administration that it’s up to Congress to pass immigration legislation is correct on its face, but the House and Senate have been unwilling to collaborate and cooperate on immigration reform.
And if it’s truly Congress that should be enacting legislation, why wouldn’t President Trump file a bill to reform immigration, rather than use the bullying tactic of a six-month deadline to act or else?
Congress should act quickly to right this heartless wrong.