Come to DACA’s defense, Mr. Trump

Miami Herald Editorial Board

In 2014, undocumented students met at Miami Dade College.
In 2014, undocumented students met at Miami Dade College. Miami Herald

It’s no secret that President Trump has the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals in his sights. It’s also no secret that ending this program, DACA, would be a callous and inhumane act, wholly un-American.

DACA protects from deportation many undocumented immigrant youth brought by their parents to the United States as children or young teens.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to end the program, which is temporary and renewable every two years. But as president, he offered a glimmer of hope, admitting that it was a difficult subject and assured that he would face it “with heart.”

We hope that the president holds that thought.

Now, Trump must make a decision no later than Sept. 5, the deadline set by a group of Republican lawmakers led by Texas Attorney General Len Paxton to file a 10-state lawsuit if the program is not eliminated. It’s encouraging that Florida is not among them.

In Miami on Wednesday, prominent DACA supporters will hold a press conference urging Trump to keep DACA in place.

Since arriving at the White House, Trump has not missed an opportunity to undermine President Obama’s legacy, which includes the 2012 executive order creating DACA. And though the president has not been able to realize the repeal of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — because of Congress’ inability to do so, Trump can terminate DACA with the stroke of a pen.

That would be a shameful mistake.

The DACA program has been a plus for the U.S. economy — and for society — according to a report by the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Migration Laws, United We Dream and Tom K. Wong of the University of California at San Diego.

The study, published on Aug. 28, points out that undocumented youth who enjoy DACA protection — nearly 750,000, with about 50,000 of them living in South Florida — make important contributions to the national economy.

Ninety-seven percent of them are working or studying. The program has allowed many recipients to come out from the shadows, where they lived in fear of discovery, and deportation.

After receiving DACA protection, 69 percent went on to work at a better salary. Before, on average, they were earning $10.29 an hour, which went up to $17.46 an hour.

Thanks to improvements in living standards, 65 percent bought their first car, and 16 percent bought their first home. In addition, 5 percent of the beneficiaries have started their own businesses.

Killing DACA would kill their progress. Its elimination would bring nearly 700,000 people out of the labor force, which would cut the gross domestic product by $460 billion over the next decade.

Of course, there is also the human cost. Many DACA beneficiaries have grown up, studied, and graduated here. This is home. Many have little contact with the country where they were born.

Condemning them to possible deportation would be heartbreaking.

If President Trump is to consider this DACA dilemma “with heart,” then his decision can be no other than to leave DACA in place and provide a vigorous defense should it have its day in court.

The best thing he could do would be urge Congress to get to work on a comprehensive and fair immigration policy — the lack of which continues to play havoc with people’s lives.