Trump's DACA Repeal Would Harm 23,000 Miamians and 103,000 Floridians Brought Here as Kids

There is simply no reason to repeal the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program unless brown people bother you. DACA prevents children brought here by their parents from being deported. It's a program that helps kids who did not choose to grow up in America but did anyway. Even if you think, incorrectly, that immigrants are predisposed to crime, you can't even apply for DACA if you have a criminal record.

Well, according to various news reports yesterday, Donald Trump is floating the idea of killing DACA "as it exists today" in a move that would represent a direct attack on Miami and the state of Florida. In Miami-Dade County alone, 23,000 people are DACA-eligible, and 103,000 qualify for the program statewide. Florida has the fourth-highest number of DACA-eligible people in America, behind California, Texas, and New York, and Miami has the state's highest concentration of recipients.

Of Florida's DACA-eligible population, 35,000 people migrated from Mexico, 10,000 from Guatemala, 8,000 from Colombia, and 6,000 each from Honduras and Venezuela.

Florida has 60 percent of the nation's DACA-eligible Venezuelan population, which is roughly 10,000 people. It's unclear how trying to deport 6,000 Venezuelans would mesh with Trump's apparently hard-line stance against Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, and it almost makes it seem as if the administration's promises to help the Venezuelan people are — gasp! — not all that genuine.

Early yesterday, Fox News reported that Trump had already made up his mind about repealing the program, but White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked back Fox's reporting slightly, claiming Trump had not yet made up his mind.

President Barack Obama instituted the program in July 2012 after the Legislature in 2010 failed to pass another version of the plan called the DREAM Act. Under the program, immigrants can apply for two-year deportation deferrals if they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, came to the United States before the age of 16, have not been convicted of a felony or "significant" misdemeanor, and are either a student, a high-school graduate, or a member of the military. Applicants have to be a minimum of 15 years old to apply.

Republicans have since tried to paint the policy shift as a mass abuse of executive power, and Trump made repealing DACA one of his central campaign pledges last year for no seemingly logical reason other than to please frightened white people.

Just as rumors have leaked from the White House that Trump is mulling cutting off the program this week, local activists, community leaders, and elected officials met over the past few days to try to drum up support for the program.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, in particular, gave an impassioned speech Wednesday night, hours before Fox News first reported that Trump is likely to repeal DACA in its entirety. Carvalho admitted that, as a kid, he overstayed his visa; lived as an undocumented, unaccompanied minor in Miami; and was even homeless for a period of time. In the years since, Carvalho became a Broad Prize-winning school administrator.

"These young men and women are being educated in our schools, our colleges, and our universities," Carvalho said at a pro-DACA meeting at Miami Dade College earlier this week. "We cannot allow them to recede back into a dark corner, fearful of what the world will bring."

He added that DACA recipients are "our community's children" and are "American in every single way" except for the fact that they were not born here.
Other major lawmakers in attendance included Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, and Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron.
Even South Miami-Dade Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican desperately trying to pass himself off as a moderate to avoid losing a swing district, has been on a warpath to fight for DACA recipients this year. In March, he filed an updated version of the DREAM Act for the second year in a row — his "Recognizing America's Children Act" would have deferred deportation to kids under the age of 16 brought here before 2012.
But Curbelo's fight to help undocumented children is undercut by the fact that his political action committee has donated heavily to politicians who despise immigrants — including a few who've made outright racist claims. According to the Miami Herald, Curbelo's leadership PAC has given money to Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, who once said immigrants should be tracked like FedEx packages, and North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, who has proposed bombing, starting a war with, or using "lasers" on Mexico to stop its residents from coming here.

Curbelo was also scheduled to appear at an immigration "debate" hosted by a predatory company that profits off the U.S. deportation dragnet, but the event was mysteriously postponed after New Times wrote about it.

Sen. Marco Rubio was previously willing to reach across the aisle as of 2013 to help reform the nation's immigration laws. But after far-right members of his party whipped him mercilessly for that stance, he now says he can't support DACA or the DREAM Act, claiming the bills could lead to "unintended consequences" — like helping defenseless children.

All of this, of course, means the anti-immigrant sickness floating through the Republican Party neither began nor will end with Trump, and whether the president rescinds DACA tomorrow or two weeks from now, 23,000 Miamians most certainly don't feel as safe as they did when the week began.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.