The election of Donald Trump and a Republican controlled Congress promises to end half a decade of gridlock on several key issues facing our nation. Immigration was on the forefront of the Presidential campaign and will be a top priority facing the next government. The President-Elect has promised many things regarding immigration, including rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was brought on by an executive order from President Obama.
I agree that DACA should be rescinded, these sort of comprehensive programs should not come from executive fiat, but from the legislative branch. President Obama was wrong in 2012 to use executive authority for such a major program. However, I implore our leaders in Congress to ask the President-Elect not to rescind this program until Congress can debate and hopefully pass a viable, permanent and similar alternative. Many national and state polls have found the program to be popular with the people. I believe that is because it is both logical and compassionate.
DACA is a successful program that allows minors who were brought into our country to get permits to work and study here in the United States. We call these children “Dreamers.” The program delays their deportation pending a permanent answer from the federal government on a broken immigration system. Since the program started in 2012, somewhere around 800,000 of these dreamers have voluntarily taken advantage of this program. Many if not most of these children have known no other home besides the United States, and they are strictly vetted to make sure they do not have a criminal record and are not a threat to national security.
Now I fully support President-Elect Trump’s plan to secure our nation’s borders. As a former combat veteran, I agree with those who are dismayed at the lack of security and enforcement of our sovereignty. There can be no question that the first step in fixing immigration must be our national security. I also do not support amnesty for those who broke our nation’s laws and violated our national sovereignty. Many critics of DACA claim it is an amnesty program and I do not agree with their opinion. DACA is a program whose participants must adhere to a strict and common sense set of criteria to qualify. Children who apply must have been under the age of 16 when they illegally entered the United States and they must have lived continuously in our country since 2007. Participants must go through a comprehensive biometric and biographic background check for criminal and terrorist activity. This is good because it brings these illegal immigrants out of the shadows of society and provides the federal government a means to both track these illegal immigrants and enforce our laws. Furthermore, it sets a common sense foundation from which we can begin repairing our broken immigration system. DACA only delays a dreamer’s deportation, it does not grant them citizenship.
According to a 2015 report by the Center for American Progress, DACA combined with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) could help the U.S. GDP grow by over $230 billion over a decade. California’s economy, especially our local economies here in the Central Valley, could not sustain a mass deportation of hundreds of thousands of dreamers. That is just a cold, hard and undeniable economic fact. These illegal immigrants have become a vital part of our local economies and many have already been the beneficiaries of our nation’s taxpayer funded public education system. We have already invested significant resources in these dreamers. It would be bad economics to send that investment back to Latin America. As a strict fiscal conservative and Republican, I am always for doing what is in the best economic interest of the United States.
We have to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. Our southern border cannot and should not be a flood gate of illegal immigration. Immigration must be regulated and those immigrants who are here illegally should not be granted any fast track path to citizenship. They should have to go through the same steps as anyone else who seeks to become a U.S. citizen. Everyone who believes in common sense should also be able to agree that if a non-citizen, legal or otherwise, commits a violent crime in this Country, they should be prosecuted, serve their sentence, deported and never allowed back into the United States. However, we should not deport dreamers who we have invested a great deal of time and treasure in.
Let’s not forget that dreamers are people who were brought here, as children, by no choice of their own. Many have been allowed to stay here for a majority of their lifetime because of a broken and inconsistently enforced immigration system. Should our immigration laws have been enforced in the decades prior? Absolutely, but they weren’t because of that broken system. Congress and the President-Elect need to fix that broken system and it starts with securing the border. Tough legislation must be passed that would ensure Federal, State and Local governments have to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. Then a good next step would be to permanently pass DACA, or a similar program, that grants a legal status, not citizenship, to our nations dreamers. It’s the right thing to do for America, it’s the right thing to do for California, and it’s the right thing to do for the Central Valley.
— Josh Whitfield is a Waterford City Councilmember and has been active in local politics for over a decade having championed Veteran’s Issues, Diabetes Research, Small Businesses, Local Control, Government Ethics and Immigration Reform. He is a decorated Army Veteran and was recognized at the 25th Assembly District Veteran of the Year in 2011. He is also a member of the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame.