June 18, 2020 – DACA’s 8th year anniversary is taking place at roughly the same time the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to deliver the ruling determining its future. In 2017, President Donald Trump attempted to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a temporary immigration relief for young people. About 650,000 “dreamers” – as beneficiaries are usually referred to- are nervously awaiting a decision that will have profound human, social and economic consequences. DACA beneficiaries are members of our communities and the decision will impact the schools where they learn and teach, the places where they work, and most importantly, their families.
Relief programs like DACA and TPS are temporary measures that authorize foreign-born people to work, and protect them from being deported. During the COVID-19 pandemic, DACA recipients have been highly visible at the frontlines as health and essential workers and have contributed to boosting the economy as active members of our communities. Similar arguments apply to beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. Terminating these programs would have social and economic impacts not only in the United States but also in people’s countries of origin, where family and friends of recipients often depend on remittances, which have decreased as a result of the economic crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic. Most DACA beneficiaries are Mexican and those of TPS are Central American. Precisely because these are temporary programs, we must move to create permanent immigration solutions that enable TPS and DACA holders to frame their life plans.
On top of these worries, we are seeing an increase in coronavirus cases infections, in some places challenging the capacity of the healthcare system. It appears that countries are prioritizing the re-opening of their economies over aggressive efforts to reduce contagion. Reopenings in countries like Honduras and Mexico reflect the impact of those choices. The high levels of contagion in the maquilas, duty-free and tariff-free factories, in Guatemala, in the meat and chicken packing industries in the United States, and in immigration detention centers, jails and prisons evidence the consequences of these premature decisions.
The pandemic has widened existing gaps in already inequitable societies. Meanwhile, the rule of law risks becoming another casualty of the virus. Authoritarian governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to disregard the constitution, to favor their political base and to punish the opposition, making citizens feel unprotected. These are undoubtedly difficult times. Rulings honoring the dignity and rights of people, such as the one issued by the Supreme Court protecting the labor rights of the LGBTQI population, are glimmers of hope we hope can be repeated with the upcoming decisions around the DACA and TPS programs.