DACA Fight Will Be Republicans’ Post-Charlottesville Moment of Reckoning

By Monica Garcia

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, congressional Republicans scrambled to distance themselves from President Trump’s recalcitrant defense of white supremacists. In social media posts and statements to the press, they condemned racism and violence and appealed to the better angels of America’s nature. Finally, after two years of scandal and the tragic death of young woman at the hands of a domestic terrorist, the GOP is beginning to denounce the President’s increasingly flagrant racism. But after rallying behind a candidate who kicked off his campaign by denigrating Mexicans and bragged about sexually assaulting women, Republicans will have to do a lot more than talk if they want to reclaim their moral authority.

As Congress returns from recess this week, Republicans will have a golden opportunity to correct course and make a definitive statement about conservative values. This is because, after promising to show DREAMers “great heart,” President Trump has instead showcased his lack of empathy by ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This reversal has been a priority for hate groups like the Center for Immigration Studies and represents a tip of the hat from the White House to white supremacists for their unwavering support. It’s within Republicans’ power to block this concession and spare nearly 800,000 young people from deportation. If they fail to act, it will place them firmly on the wrong side of history.

When President Obama announced the creation of DACA in 2012, he described undocumented youth as “Americans in their hearts, their minds, in every single way except one — on paper.” And they are. These young men and women have spent their formative years, if not their entire lives, in the United States. They’ve sung the national anthem and pledged allegiance to the Stars and Stripes. To abandon hundreds of thousands of de facto Americans to a fate of marginalization and deportation would be an unforgiveable moral failure.

Today, DREAMers face a painful countdown to the day their work permits expire and they are again at risk of deportation. For those who came of age after the establishment of DACA, there come unfamiliar challenges and new barriers to education, employment, and free movement. The end of deferred action means hitting pause on bright careers and lifelong goals without any guarantee for the future.

For our economy, the end of DACA represents a missed opportunity. A recent study from the Center of American Progress found that rescinding DACA would remove more than 685,000 workers from America’s labor force and cost our economy 460 billion dollars over the next decade. This loss will reverberate across our country — classrooms will lose teachers, underserved communities will lose medical professionals, and businesses will lose valuable employees — and touch Americans of all political stripes.

Perhaps that is why an overwhelming majority of voters support allowing DREAMers to remain in the United States. Even among Trump voters, public support for DREAMers is strong, with 73% of these voters saying they should be allowed to stay. With this level of approval, Republicans have no reasonable excuse for delaying a legislative solution for undocumented youth. Their inaction would send the clear message that the GOP remains the Party of Trump despite congressional Republicans’ claims to the contrary.

As a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll shows, President Trump’s already dismal approval ratings are taking a hit in the wake of Charlottesville. His decision to coddle neo-Nazis and racists will continue to loom large in voters’ minds. Though Republicans in Congress have made token attempts to reject Trump’s racist legacy, it’s clear the rescission of DACA is a defining moment for Republicans. They can choose to side with a disgraced President as he tears young people from their homes, or they can transform their calls for justice and equality into actual action and begin to redeem themselves. If Republicans let the clock run out on DREAMers, they will no longer be able to claim moral superiority over the white supremacist in the Oval Office.