September 14, 2017 10:00 am JST

Editorial: Trump is wrong to end protections for child immigrants

Program shields promising young people who were brought to US illegally

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program march in front of Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas on Sept. 10. © AP

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has announced it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting young people brought into the U.S. illegally as children from deportation.

The decision is part of the administration's efforts to eliminate illegal immigrants, but if carried out as stated, this policy reversal would destroy the lives of as many as 800,000 young men and women in the U.S. The decision is not only inhumane, it will also impact the U.S. economy in no small way.

The DACA program was introduced by Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama in 2012. Under the program, people are eligible to apply for DACA status if they illegally entered the U.S. under the age of 16 with their parents.

Most illegal immigrants in the U.S. are Hispanic, coming from Central and South America. The rapid increase in their population has rattled much of white America. The growing anger of poor white Americans over migrant workers, whom they blame for "stealing" jobs, helped propel Trump into White House.

It is not entirely beyond understanding that the administration is now putting so much effort and energy into wiping out illegal immigrants. Criminals who commit such offenses as murder, robbery and drug dealing must be cracked down on.

But DACA has paved the way for many young immigrants to study at public schools, allowing them to learn English and become part of their community.

More than a few recipients of DACA status, dubbed "Dreamers," have already graduated from high school and embarked on their careers. They are a valuable source of manpower, which underpins the current robust U.S. economy. More than 300 American business leaders have voiced their opposition to the government's decision to end DACA.

ABSURDLY MISGUIDED The Trump administration is still no closer to winning congressional approval for its budget bill covering the cost of building a long-promised wall along the Mexican border. So, to retain his core supporters, Trump seems eager to create the impression that his government is doing something to fight the flow of illegal immigrants.

Even so, making Dreamers -- the most promising of illegal immigrants -- a target for attack is an absurdly misguided action. Should the U.S. treat even people too young to realize they had entered the country illegally as illegal immigrants? No. We believe instead that the U.S. should take this opportunity to exclude young people protected under DACA from the category of illegal immigrants.

The program is due to be repealed in March 2018. The deportation of 800,000 young people will not be carried out in one go, but will instead start with those whose extendable two-year resident permits under DACA are set to expire. There is still time. We hope that the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress will act as quickly as possible to save the Dreamers.

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