Lizandro had an athletic scholarship to play soccer for a North Carolina school. His older brother Diego worked extra hard to catch up in high school so he could graduate on time.
But both are now staying with relatives in El Salvador, the “murder capital” of the hemisphere, because they were booted out of the United States due to President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration. The 19-year-old Lizandro and 22-year-old Diego came to the U.S. illegally in 2009, which makes them subject to deportation according to the letter of the law, but wiggle room had been put in place to protect people like them in recent years.
Under the previous administration, cases like Lizandro and Diego’s were not considered priorities for deportation. They were students, had no criminal records and were part of U.S. society. In other words, they hadn’t harmed anyone. Yet they were shuffled onto a plane and sent out of the country anyway.
DACA Under Fire
Former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the country if they had arrived as children. Those people came to be known as Dreamers.
DACA has been targeted by Obama’s successor in the Oval Office.
Lizandro and Diego’s story is one of many that have moved American citizens lately. In April, a poll by the Morning Consult and Politico revealed that 78 percent of registered voters support allowing Dreamers to remain in the country, while 56 percent think Dreamers should be able to become U.S. citizens themselves.
In July, the same poll showed that 48 percent of Trump’s own Republican Party think Dreamers should be able to become citizens while another 24 percent of GOP voters think Dreamers should be able to stay without getting citizenship status. All told, that’s 72 percent of the president’s party that doesn’t support his actions.
This phenomenon has emerged during back-to-school season around the country, where immigrant students and students who are children of immigrants were greeted by signs that said things like “Bienvenido” and “Every Student is Welcome.” Moments like these may be anecdotal, but they’re powerful.
So why risk political blowback from a huge majority of the country to hurt individuals and families who haven’t hurt anyone?
Hope for DACA?
Trump had campaigned on eliminating Obama’s immigration policies. When he took office, Americans had every reason to believe he would follow through on those promises. Reality is getting in the way of Trump’s campaign promises.
And it might do the same to keep DACA, and the Dreamers it protects, in place.
One positive sign is that Trump selected Gen. John Kelly, who had most recently run the Department of Homeland Security, to be his chief of staff.
While running the country’s homeland security policy, Kelly had spoken positively about DACA and said that he would work to preserve it.
Trump’s views on DACA may be evolving, too.
“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make,” Trump said in July. “I really understand the situation now.”
Trump may push this decision on Congress, which will decide on DACA’s fate, among many other matters, when they reconvene in September to pass a government-funding bill. Considering the popularity of leaving Dreamers alone and Congress members’ desire to get re-elected, there’s a chance that they will leave DACA in place.
Despite all of that, Thomas D. Homan, who heads Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told the U.S. House Appropriations Committee in June that his department can’t help that people broke the law and thus must be forced to leave.
“If someone enters this country illegally and knows he’s in the country illegally and is found to be in the country illegally and is ordered removed from the country and chooses to have a child in this country that’s a U.S. citizen by virtue of birth, he put himself in that position, so ICE is not separating that family,” Homan said.
Given things like Homan’s callousness toward situations that are far more complicated than he cares to admit, we could soon see more students like Lizandro and Diego cruelly shuttled out of the country that has been their home since childhood.