What were they supposed to do, these 800,000 or so young adults who were brought to this country illegally as children? Were they, as toddlers, supposed to refuse to come here? Or should they have, when they turned 18, voluntarily headed back to a country they barely knew, if at all, away from their family, friends, schools and jobs?

And what was the federal government supposed to do, put all its power and money and effort into rounding up people indistinguishable from the citizens they grew up with, played with and worked alongside? People contributing to this country, with their hopes and dreams and futures wrapped up in this country like anyone else?

Because Congress failed for so many years to give these undocumented immigrants a status that makes sense, President Barack Obama did it himself. Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, they were given the opportunity to apply for renewable two-year permits allowing them to go to school, work and travel without fear of deportation, of being ripped without warning from what is for all intents and purposes their home country, as long as they came out of the shadows and kept clean records.

And it has worked – 97 percent of DACA permit recipients are either working or in school.

But a presidential edict is only as strong as the person in the office, and we have in office now a man with few principles and a frighteningly thin grasp of the issues at hand.

In the past, President Trump has promised to both end the DACA program and to help its participants. This week, he passed the buck, first to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced to the public the president’s plan to end DACA in six months, then to Congress, which he told to “do your job.” (Later, he said he hoped Congress would get something done, though he was not more specific.)


Never mind that he could have introduced legislation to codify DACA, or announced his backing for legislation already in play. He could have left the program in place in the meantime, while Congress does what it must do: restore DACA and protects its recipients.

But he had Republican governors who are upset at Obama’s order and a political base to which he had promised so much. So he upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have done nothing but live their lives and contribute to this country since they came here as children.

To those 800,000 young adults – including 95 Mainers – he offered only a promise not to prioritize them for immediate deportation.

But what is that promise to a president who has turned Immigration and Customs Enforcement into an overzealous deportation force, rounding up criminals, yes – just as the Obama administration did – but also anyone else caught in its wake? In Trump’s first 100 days, just 9 percent of the immigrants detained were classified as “criminal aliens” by ICE.

And what is that promise coming from a president that used the DACA announcement to extol the “rule of law” only weeks after pardoning Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff who purposely and flagrantly defied the courts and the Constitution, and violated the civil rights of countless Latinos?

So now there are 800,000 people living in America unsure if they have any sort of future here. Their removal would not make the country any more safe, nor would it create jobs or raise wages.

No, it would only disrupt lives that are American in every way but one.

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