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OPINION | Trump’s decision to end DACA creates a national security threat


On Thursday, reports surfaced that President Trump will keep his campaign promise to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, halting it “as early as” Friday, Sept. 1. Unfortunately, the president’s decision not only robs our nation of the gifts these young people have to share, but creates a national security problem that DACA solved.

Initiated by President Barack Obama in June 2012, the DACA program allows some who entered the United States as children to receive renewable two-year protection from deportation and a work permit.

According to a March Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans worry a great deal or a fair amount about illegal immigration. Fixing our broken system is a worthy cause, as are efforts to locate and deport those here illegally who are involved in violent crime, in order to make our nation a safer place. However, ending the DACA program is actually harmful to national security as it eliminates the opportunity for these young people to become active and productive members of their communities. 

Seven months into President Trump’s term, those topics are still front and center, but the politics of immigration has given way to dishonesty when it comes to how some characterize the threat to public safety posed by those who are here in an undocumented or unauthorized status. For example, in an effort to force the Trump administration to end the DACA program, 10 state attorneys general are using the threat of a lawsuit to characterize DACA recipients as a threat to public safety — this characterization is simply not true.

{mosads}Today, there are approximately 750,000 DACA beneficiaries. Each of these individuals is closely vetted every two years to ensure that only those who have no criminal history are allowed to participate in the program. The majority of these young people have been raised in the United States, speak English and simply want to live and contribute to the country they consider to be their home. Once in the program, participants attend school, work, pay taxes and provide up-to-date information to immigration authorities.

The opportunities provided through the DACA program help keep these young people from joining gangs or engaging in illegal activity, increasing the chance beneficiaries will contribute to their communities and the nation. Should a participant violate the law — and there have been some examples — they are removed from the program and subject to enforcement action.

As someone who has spent more than 30 years working on law enforcement and homeland security issues at the federal, state, and local levels, I am confident that the overwhelming majority of the young people who are part of the DACA program do not represent a threat to the security of our nation or our communities.

I am equally confident that from a law enforcement perspective, ending this program makes no sense and will be detrimental to our security. Ending this program will force these young people who are contributing to our country back into the shadows, increasing the risk that they will engage in illegal activity. It will certainly make them less likely to cooperate with local law enforcement authorities and that will have a detrimental impact on local efforts to prevent violent crime.

To secure the well-being of our nation, we must devote our time and energy to real security threats. We should focus our limited law enforcement resources on real threats to our security such as securing our borders, preventing violent crime broadly, stopping terrorist attacks, deporting violent criminal aliens, preventing cyber-attacks, and addressing a growing opioid crisis.

These are examples of domestic security priorities demanding the attention of our elected officials. Targeting a group of young people seeking to better themselves through education so they can contribute socially and economically to the growth of our nation is not a good use of law enforcement resources.

Ending the DACA program will make the nation less safe. It will rob us of these talented hard-working young people who want to contribute to our society. Let’s stop confusing security and safety with political theater. Instead, let’s find a way to make the United States safer and more secure through comprehensive decisions on immigration and by focusing our limited resources on actual threats, not by keeping misguided campaign promises.

John D. Cohen is a former acting under secretary at the Department of Homeland Security (2009 to 2014) and currently a distinguished professor of professional practice at Rutgers University.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama DACA deferred action for childhood arrivals Donald Trump DREAM Act Illegal immigration to the United States United States Department of Homeland Security

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