Our VoiceImmigration

Nativist movement uses DACA anniversary to blame president, block relief

Kalia Abiade • Aug 18, 2014

President Obama is expected to use his executive authority to address the nation’s fractured immigration system before summer’s end. The exact date and extent of relief is therefore still unknown. However, this lack of information has not stopped the anti-immigrant movement from trying to erode or to block protections for immigrants already living in the United States, as the president weighs some form of relief even though he already has a successful blueprint.

Friday, Aug. 15, marked two years since the president temporarily halted deportations for undocumented youth in the United States. Advocates last week used the anniversary to celebrate the broad successes of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which is rightfully protecting about 587,000 young people.

The anti-immigrant movement also made note of the two-year point, though, usingthe occasion to pressure Republicans in Congress to rip away the safeguards DACA provides and to halt any possible expansion of the program. In addition to deportation relief, DACA gives qualifying youth ages 15-to-30 the opportunity to apply for a two-year work permit. Since 2012, the program has received solid public support, with about 63% of surveyed adults approving. The president is reportedly considering the extension of deportation relief to the parents of DACA recipients. Such a move could positively impact the lives of as many as one million people already residing here, according to one estimate.

Scapegoating and finger-pointing

As the summer winds down and some form of temporary relief becomes a more distinct possibility, anti-immigrant activists are doubling down on their efforts to cast any action by the president as out of bounds, purposefully ignoring the fact he and his administration will simply be reinforcing laws that already exist. Mark Krikorian of the nativist think tank Center for Immigration Studies argues that past instances of administrative relief on immigration “were made up out of whole cloth by the executive as a way of letting illegal aliens stay.”

“[W]hen a president proposes to issues a ukase [an edict issued by a Russian czar] amnestying millions [sic] of illegal aliens … without permission from Congress, it does indeed represent a leap into the antidemocratic dark,” Krikorian wrote Friday for the National Review.

Again, Obama has broad authority to issue administrative relief, and his doing so will only streamline laws that already exist.

Anti-immigrant grassroots organizations were ready to carry Krikorian’s message forward. In a coordinated blitz Thursday, NumbersUSA, the Tea Party Patriots and the Eagle Forum were among the groups urging their members to implore their senators to defund the DACA program. In an email appeal, NumbersUSA blamed DACA – “and the message it sends” – for the arrival to the United States of children fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America. The group continues to exploit the highly publicized humanitarian challenge and to scapegoat the migrant children to block any form of humane relief.

“If President Obama expands his program, how many more will try to come to our country illegally?” its email read.

House Republicans appeared to have already bought into this nativist line of thinking, but the Senate will largely prove unreceptive. The president has a chance to offer relief – even if limited – to keep families together and to allow more people to step forward and to participate in their communities without fearing deportation and/or detention.

“Keeping 11 million people in the shadows, working under the table, ripping apart our families, deporting Dreamers, creating no process for people to legally apply to come to this country – that’s the radical immigration policy Republicans want,” said Lorella Praeli, directory of advocacy and policy with the group United We Dream.

Kalia Abiade is the advocacy director at the Center for New Community. Image Credit

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