On Tuesday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that, in six months, the Trump administration will terminate DACA, the Obama-era program that allows young undocumented people brought to the United States as children to live and work here legally. Sessions could have given a straightforward speech that criticized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program’s alleged legal infirmities and urged Congress to legislate a solution. Instead, he slandered DACA’s nearly 800,000 recipients in nativist language with barely concealed racist undertones.
In his remarks, he directly denounced the very idea of granting any kind of amnesty to undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own. At the heart of his speech were two lies, straight from Breitbart, explaining why DACA must end:
The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.Let’s examine these falsehoods in turn.First: Sessions claimed that DACA “contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border.” This allegation, often touted by far-right xenophobes, is false. A study published in International Migration, a peer-reviewed academic journal, found that the surge in unaccompanied minors actually began in 2008. (DACA was announced in 2012.)…snip…Second: Sessions alleged that DACA has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” This line is obviously drawn from the false narrative that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens. There is no actual evidence that DACA recipients have taken jobs from any Americans, let alone “hundreds of thousands.” There is, however, strong evidence that killing DACA will significantly damage the economy—a fact that Sessions conveniently omitted from his speech…snip…Trump’s decision to end DACA isn’t a job-saver; it’s a job-killer.Toward the end of his speech, Sessions praised the RAISE Act, a Republican-backed bill that would tightly curtail immigration into the U.S. Sessions claimed the act would “produce enormous benefits for our country.” In reality, the measure marks an effort to return America to an older immigration regime that locked out racial and ethnic minorities. Sessions has praised the 1924 law that created this regime—a law whose chief author declared that his act was meant to end “indiscriminate acceptance of all races.” On Tuesday, Sessions revived this principle in slightly more polite language.…snip…Before Tuesday, the Trump administration seemed eager to frame its DACA decision as respect for constitutional separation of powers: Congress, it insisted, not the president, must set immigration policy. But after Sessions’ speech, it is difficult to view this move as anything other than an attempt to implement the white nationalism that Trump and Sessions campaigned on.