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Commentary: DACA Is Safe — For Now

David Martin Davies

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that President Trump acted unlawfully when he attempted to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and eliminated legal protections for Dreamers.  Now that this ruling has emerged and the initial surprise of it has diminished, Texas Public Radio commentator Yvette Benavides considers the day after — what would have happened if the ruling had gone the other way.

The summer of 2020 has delivered a surging pandemic, a cratering economy, and a simmering social unrest, the result of a global protest of the murders of African American citizens at the hands of an unchecked police brutality. Had the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Donald Trump to terminate the DACA program which allows noncitizens brought to this country illegally as children to apply for protection from deportation, it would have been another blow very much in keeping with the current climate of disappointment and despair.

Some 700,000 dreamers would have lost their immigration status and faced deportations. This country would have lost the benefit of their contributions, including thousands of essential workers caring for COVID-19 patients in myriad ways.

Under Trump, the Supreme Court approved the diversion of funds that Congress had earmarked for the military be used instead to build the border wall. They also approved the so-called Muslim ban. Those things have happened, so it isn’t too cynical to anticipate the DACA ruling in bleaker terms that continue to expand Trump’s executive power.

Trump first made the promise to end DACA during his presidential campaign in June of 2015. At the end of 2016 he said that he wanted to “work something out.”  This softening stance did not appeal to his administration or his voters. More chess moves followed, and in September of 2017 Trump ordered the termination of DACA, saying that without a border wall, he would no longer consider further negotiations.  

Trump has infamously said that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and (he) wouldn’t lose any voters.” That seems sadly conceivable.  Sadder still is that Trump believes that he could shoot someone with no judgment from his constituents but flip-flopping on DACA would be unforgiveable — and that’s been part of his motivation to end it.

With Trump’s approval numbers now the lowest they’ve ever been due in part to his handling of the response to the pandemic, and the resultant faltering economy, the next nightmare and what-if scenarios emerge by imagining what he might do next to secure reelection, particularly as those decisions and actions could affect immigration reforms and, yes, even DACA.

Yvette Benavides is a professor of creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake University. She co-authored the book San Antonio 365: On This Day in History, published by Trinity University Press.