On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA is an executive order that allowed illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors to receive legal protection from deportation. It was implemented by the Obama administration in 2012, and it permitted those in the program to work and go to school. With the decision to end DACA, 800,000 young people who currently have legal protections are in danger of being deported from the United States. Former President Barack Obama criticized and lamented the decision to end the program. In a Facebook post, he wrote: “These Dreamers are Americans … in every single way but one: on paper.”
President Trump, having pledged to abolish the DACA program during the presidential election, nonetheless showed a softening on immigration and hinted that he might not end the program once in office. However, with his approval ratings at an all-time low, because of the “Russia scandal” and his controversial and racially insensitive comments following the Charlottesville incident, President Trump needed to shore up his base of support by adopting an anti-immigrant policy. It was a callous political decision that sacrificed the legal status of the young men and women who immigrated before the age of 16 and went to school in the United States. Even though they were not born in the U.S., many of them have no connection to the countries of their parents and do not speak any languages other than English.
To deport these young people (most of them in their early twenties) out of the United States is to uproot and completely ruin their lives. It is difficult to understand the decision from a humanitarian lens.
It appears President Trump cares only about satisfying his supporters. With respect to South Korea, President Trump, eager to appeal to his political base, repeatedly threatened to end the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and unilaterally announced an arms deal worth billions of dollars – a deal to which South Korea has not agreed.
The ending of DACA should be of concern to the South Korean government. Between 7,000 and 10,000 young Korean men and women living in the U.S. could be subject to deportation. The Foreign Affairs Ministry needs to come up with contingency plans for these young people. It also ought to pay closer attention to all DACA-related issues and to communicate our positions clearly to the U.S. administration and Congress.