EVEN AS the Trump administration doubles down on its attempt to rescind protections and work permits for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, officials murmur soothing words. Don't worry about being deported, they tell the "dreamers" — trust us.
That was the assurance offered Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who told "CBS This Morning" that deporting dreamers is "not going to be a priority" of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. "That's not the policy of DHS," she added.
Cold comfort indeed.
It's what Ms. Nielsen didn't say that should chill the hearts of roughly 690,000 young immigrants who have qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program President Trump has ordered dismantled, starting March 5. While a federal judge last week suspended efforts to terminate DACA, there's no guarantee that ruling will stick; in fact, the Justice Department this week said it would ask the Supreme Court to allow the administration to go ahead with its plan.
What Ms. Nielsen ignored in her public remarks is that deportation is not the only threat facing dreamers, should DACA die. Quite aside from the prospect of being detained, they would automatically lose their work permits when their registrations lapsed. Given that some 1,200 dreamers would lose DACA protections every day, starting March 5, that's a personal and professional train wreck, coming on fast.
According to the most comprehensive survey of DACA recipients, more than 90 percent of them are employed, and 16 percent of them purchased their first home after being granted protection by the program. How would dreamers with jobs cope once their employers cut them loose? How would those with mortgages continue to make their payments?
In addition, nearly half of those protected by the program are students, most of them pursuing a bachelor's degree or higher. In some states, including Virginia, they are eligible for in-state tuition rates by dint of their status as DACA recipients. How would they continue with their studies if their tuition doubled, as it would at many public colleges and universities that charge much higher out-of-state rates, or if they were unable to continue working while enrolled?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added his own disingenuously soothing words on Tuesday, citing the federal judge's order (while ignoring the administration's effort to squash it) and cooing that "Congress has at least until March at a minimum, and possibly longer, to reach a compromise."
In fact, three recent homeland security secretaries, from both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, have pointed out the fallacy of Mr. McConnell's timetable. Even in the event of a compromise that grants dreamers long-term legal status, it would take at least a month and a half to build the bureaucratic mechanism required to accommodate them.
Despite those attempts to muffle the alarm, the clock is ticking on the lives and livelihoods of nearly 700,000 dreamers, not to mention more than 1 million other young immigrants who would have qualified for DACA had they applied. Their futures hang in the balance, and no false assurances will change that reality.