NC Budget and Tax Center

Inaction on DACA is traumatizing North Carolina families and children

When President Trump decided last September to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, he claimed to want a permanent legislative replacement, and set a March 5th deadline, in theory, to push Congress to act. Thus far, the Administration has failed to deliver and young adults and their families in North Carolina are paying the price.

Ongoing court challenges allow DACA recipients to renew their status, but the program is closed to new applications and the future of Dreamers and their families has been thrown into doubt. This the lack of resolution itself is traumatizing DACA recipients, many of whom are or have children.

A new report, based on extensive interviews with educators, counselors, and health professionals, documents the many ways that President Trump’s decision is harming children and families across North Carolina. According to a 2015 survey, roughly one-quarter of DACA recipients have children who are U.S. citizens, and now those children are living with the constant fear of seeing their parents deported and their families torn apart.

“One little boy was writing down what he knew how to cook—peanut butter sandwiches and cheese sandwiches—in order to reassure his frightened five-year-old sister that they would be okay if their parents were deported.”

Regardless of whether President Trump understands the weight of his actions, he chose to dismantle a program that made children feel more secure and less afraid (a recent study found that children of mothers who were eligible for DACA were much less likely to be diagnosed with adjustment and anxiety disorders). Now, young children are being exposed to levels of stress and anxiety that can leave lifelong physical and emotional damage.

And the harm doesn’t end with the families directly impacted. Classmates of children and the broader communities where families live are affected by the uncertainty and the potential loss of neighbors, friends, workers and consumers.

Reasonable people can disagree about what sensible and just immigration policy looks like, but children don’t have to suffer while that debate plays out. Leaders in Washington should spare children and families needless trauma, heed what the overwhelming majority of Americans want to see happen, and pass legislation to make DACA protections permanent.

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