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A Path to Citizenship for DACA Recipients

Imagine a second Trump presidency. Now imagine you are an undocumented immigrant. At any moment, you could be separated from your family. If you’re a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, you’ve already exposed yourself to the United States government. At any moment, you could be deported. Without a citizenship path, these are but a small drop in the ocean of issues that DACA recipients and their families face.

U.S. policy has failed to provide a secure future for these undocumented children. By expanding DACA, the United States can create a clear and secure future for them. We must create a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

In the United States, the undocumented population has increased dramatically. Some individuals leave their home country due to economic reasons. Many flee due to violence. Their children then become victims of the laws and policies that could force them to return to a country they’ve never known. As they grow, they face poverty, debt, fear of deportation, and separation from their families. As adults, they are unable to find jobs with growth or stability. They hide in silence while paying taxes without any rights, fair wages, or safe working conditions.

Current U.S. policy does not provide a pathway to citizenship for the younger undocumented immigrants. It only provides recipients with a work permit and the deferral of deportation, which simply serves as a stop-gap in the absence of broader immigration reform. U.S. policy needs to change for three reasons:

First, these undocumented children deserve humanity, not cruelty. If they were deported, they would be deserted in a country they have never known, likely with no family. They would be abandoned to the violence and poverty that their parents fled. The United States is their home; they should not be forced to leave.

Second, these children become workers who contribute to our economy. In 2015, the IRS collected $23.6 billion from 4.4 million workers without Social Security numbers–many of whom were undocumented. Undocumented workers provide up to $3 trillion dollars to our economy. They reduce the number of undocumented households in poverty. Their labor and contribution are essential to the United States’ economic growth.

Finally, these undocumented children deserve a secure future. Through no fault of their own, they came to America. Subsequently, they had to live in hiding without an opportunity to make their lives better. DACA with a path to citizenship ensures that they have access to fair wages and employment and will never become the victims of a policy that could change every four years.

Critics will say that this is amnesty –for some, the dirtiest word in immigration reform. However, in the many years of immigration policy, we have accepted “amnesty” for specific categories of people. It is not a new concept. DACA is also narrowly tailored to a particular group of people. These children are most deserving. They did not intentionally break the law and were not legally responsible for their actions. Creating a path to citizenship may also be the most cost-effective approach. It could cost billions of dollars to discover and deport them. Also, other deterrents for undocumented border crossings are still in place. Entering the U.S. without documentation is still a crime. Adults know that if they enter, there is a possibility that they could be detained or deported.

We all want the best for our children. Whether we admit it or not, undocumented children are our children. They are our responsibility. By providing a secure future for undocumented children through a pathway to citizenship, we strengthen ourselves. A bright future for undocumented children means a bright and prosperous future for the United States of America.