Houston's Turner, Other Mayors Ask Trump to Keep Undocumented-Immigrant Program

Houston's Turner, Other Mayors Ask Trump to Keep Undocumented-Immigrant Program
Illustration by Brian Stauffer

Mayor Sylvester Turner and 17 other mayors of major U.S. cities asked President-elect Donald Trump Thursday to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which alleviates fear of deportation for children of undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the country before they were 16.

Enacted in 2012 thanks to an executive action by President Barack Obama, DACA has helped more than 742,000 youth obtain work permits and identification while they pursue higher education. While DACA's sister program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans — which shielded undocumented immigrants with American-born children from deportation while giving them work permits — was shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court, DACA remains on the table. For now, at least.

On Tuesday, the 18 mayors sent a letter penned by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to Trump urging him not to dismantle the program once he takes office. The request comes just after Trump said in an interview with TIME for his dubious "Person of the Year" honor that he would consider "working something out" for undocumented youth covered by DACA. It is a softer tone compared to his vows to initiate mass deportations and overturn all of Obama's immigration executive orders.

“They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here," he told the magazine. "Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Emmanuel, Turner and the 16 others said Tuesday that "we were encouraged" when Trump said he met with DREAMers and advocates, and called for relief for them. The mayors reiterated that falling back on that quasi-promise would be detrimental to hundreds of thousands of good people.

"Ensuring DREAMers can continue to live and work in their communities without fear of deportation is the foundation of sound, responsible immigration policy," Emanuel wrote. "Ending DACA would disrupt the lives of close to one million young people, and it would disrupt the sectors of the American economy, as well as our national security and public safety, to which they contribute," Emanuel wrote.

Emanuel estimated that eliminating DACA would result in a $9.9 billion loss in tax revenue for the U.S. — since DACA recipients contribute 15 percent of their wages to taxes — and would result in a $433.4 billion loss in U.S. Gross Domestic Product over the next decade. Eighty-seven percent of DACA recipients, Emanuel wrote, are employed by American businesses, and many invest in homes and cars and even their own businesses.

On the public safety  and national security end, Emmanuel pointed out that 90 percent of DACA recipients get a driver's license and those who own cars (54 percent) are also getting insured. "That means that cities and their roads are safer for the DACA recipient, other drivers, the police, and the healthcare system."

Emanuel and the mayors finished it off by asking Trump to keep DACA in place until Congress can "modernize" the immigration system and provide more permanent relief for those DACA recipients.

Other groups, however, are not so convinced that Trump's pledge to soften the blow on young undocumented immigrants is one to trust. Here is a statement from United We Dream's advocacy director, Greisa Martinez.

“We will fight to defend DACA fearlessly to ensure that nearly 800,000 young people continue to be protected from deportation and retain the ability to work. But we will never allow 'working something out' for young people with DACA to serve as a cover for mass deportation and the Muslim registry. DACA doesn’t just benefit me — the job I have and the home I bought benefit my whole family, including my mother who is undocumented and who I’m terrified will be a victim of Donald Trump.”


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