As we enter 2018, we have several major events happening that are centered around immigration policy. With the government set to run out of money by January 19th, Congress will need to pass a budget to ensure that the federal government continues to remain open for business. One of the major roadblocks for a budget approval is the elected members, of the Democratic Party, whose believe that, in order to pass a budget, we must first pass a law on the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) issue that affects over 700,000 people. The Trump Administration has stated that they would agree to allow the DACA recipients to stay; so long as the border wall, along the border of Mexico, is built to secure the nation’s southern border. Another major concern is the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on citizens whose countries have faced dire circumstances that required them to emigrate. With over 300,000 TPS recipients from countries like Honduras, Haiti, and El Salvador facing possible deportation, a lot of uncertainty exists with regards to immigration in the United States. To summarize, it is important to understand what the implications are for these immigration policies and how they affect us as citizens.
The DACA recipients, also known as the Dreamers, are immigrants who entered this country, before they were 16, and have lived in the United States since 2007. According to the CNN, the major recipients of DACA are immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Dreamers have been given the option to defer the deportation and obtain government ID, find employment, and also pay income taxes. However, they will have to renew their DACA status every two years in order to remain eligible. This action, which was passed under President Obama, gave dreamer’s a temporary respite to their decision as to how to solve the illegal immigration problem. While this system is far from perfect, it has provided a meaningful step to allow the dreamers to remain in this country while Congress attempts to pass immigration reform.
Another immigration policy change is the removal of TPS status for recipients, who fled their home countries due to disasters, and have lived in the United States because of a Congressional action in 1990. In a USA Today article, the Trump Administration announced this week that over 200,000 El Salvadorans would lose their TPS status in 2019. This is in addition to the TPS recipients, from Sudan, who lost their status last year and have until 2019 to leave the country. In addition, over 60,000 Haitians could face deportation in the coming months. Not to mention the fact that many TPS recipients would lose their ability to continue working here legally. The result would be devastating to families across the nation; many facing uncertainty in how they will provide for their children. I ask that you take a moment to read this Washington Post article that shares the concerns that some of these people are experiencing due to this decision. As a U.S. citizen, I will never know the fear that they have had to live with each day. The fear that they might have to split their families up. The devastation that they would feel with losing their jobs, and the economic stability, that they have worked so hard to build here in the United States. The thought of it truly hits me like a brick wall and leaves me sick to my stomach.
Finally, the last issue that I wish discuss is President Trump’s insistence of tying any immigration policy to his goal of building a wall that runs along the border of Mexico. Last year, the Washington Post article offered a breakdown of the costs of building the wall. In addition to the supplies, and the costs of building the infrastructure for the project, the final costs could range anywhere between $15 billion to $25 billion. According to a more recent article from the New York Times, the overall cost of the wall would cost $33 billion, with $18 billion going towards building the wall, and the rest going towards security. While nothing has been finalized with the proposal, it is important to remember how much this will truly cost the United States. With that amount of money, we could easily fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), repair critical infrastructure in Puerto Rico, or even going to the massive costs of repairing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Overall, I believe that real structural reforms need to go into fixing our immigration policy in U.S. However, I find the issue of removing Dreamers, and TPS recipients, from this country as a poor reflection of the ideals that this country stands for. The United States has, for numerous generations, been built up by populations seeking a better life in this country. Our country has clear economic issues that need to be addressed but we can not blame immigrants for the fault of our economic circumstances. As a nation, we need to come together to realize that immigration is a powerful tool in providing a sustaining economy for this country. With the coming retirement of the baby boomer generation, we will need to ensure that we have a workforce that can continue to provide funding for social security and medicare. According to an article from the Mercatus Center, the number of workers, per social security retiree, has decreased from 5.1, in 1960, to 2.9 in 2012. At this rate, our workforce will require more workers to ensure that we can continue to provide for Social Security. Immigration can provide one piece of the puzzle to keeping social retirement programs funded.
If I can leave you with this thought, consider the implications that this debate will have for this country. Our strength, as a nation, stems from the fact that we are strongest when we stand united, together, to fight for a better future. When we embrace one another, not by just our race or religion, but by our joint commitment to build a better country where our children can grow up to build a lasting legacy of prosperity and promise. We owe it to ourselves to take a step back and consider the lasting implications these ideas will have on our democracy. So I ask you to take the time, learn about these issues, and perhaps we can find a way to solve immigration in the United States.
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