Writing in The Boston Globe, MIT President L. Rafael Reif has called on U.S. President Donald Trump and Congress to preserve the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, saying that a proposed repeal “would run counter to our national interest [and] strikes me as a violation of deep American principles.”
Created in 2012, DACA pertains to young people brought to the U.S. without documentation when they were under age 16, a group sometimes known as Dreamers. Under DACA, if these individuals identify themselves to the government and meet strict criteria — such as having earned a high school diploma, being enrolled in higher education or engaged in the military, and having committed no serious crime — they receive a temporary reprieve from the threat of deportation.
Noting that Trump faces potential legal action by a number of states seeking to end the program, Reif noted in an op-ed published in Friday’s newspaper: “As we see at MIT and at campuses across the country, the threat of DACA repeal is subjecting these young people to brutal uncertainty. Now, because of decisions made for them when they were children, they fear losing the opportunities they earned, the communities they think of as home, and the nation they love.”
In the op-ed, Reif calls upon Congress to pass legislation protecting the DREAMers, and asks Trump to allow Congress time to act. He notes that polls have found that the vast majority of Americans oppose repeal of DACA, and that congressional Republicans and Democrats have proposed workable legislative solutions. He writes that a repeal would run counter to the national interest by removing productive workers, while costing the federal government tens of billions of dollars in lost tax revenues and the direct costs of deportation.
“And because Dreamers are, by definition, products of the U.S. education system, driving them out would be throwing away a tremendous national investment,” Reif notes. “We should treat these educated, English-speaking strivers not as a burden, but as a resource.”
“The plight of the Dreamers presents a profound question of fairness,” Reif adds. “Often starting from harsh personal circumstances, these young people have done what any American family might dream of for their child: study hard, aim high, and earn a degree or a place in college or the military, on the road to a productive career. They are undocumented through no fault of their own. And when offered an opportunity to come out of the shadows, they did — because they trusted that our government would not punish them for it.”
In his op-ed, Reif notes that he himself is an immigrant — a native of Venezuela who came to the U.S. as a graduate student in 1974, and has since become a U.S. citizen.
“I have the particular patriotism of an immigrant, rooted in deep gratitude and appreciation for a country founded on a dream of fairness,” he writes in closing. “I urge President Trump and the Congress to find a sound, stable legislative path to keep that promise of fairness for the Dreamers, too.”