‘This is a sad day for our country’: Mark Zuckerberg calls Trump’s decision to close DACA ‘cruel’

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program might not be a household name, but it’s of utmost importance for immigrants brought to the US illegally as children. More commonly referred to by the acronym DACA, the program was introduced during the Obama administration and aims to protect since-matured illegal childhood immigrants from deportation. President Trump just closed it down. 

'This is a sad day for our country': Mark Zuckerberg calls Trump's decision to close DACA 'cruel'

In a statement, responding to the announcement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described the decision as “beyond devastating.” 

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“The human impact of 800,000 young people losing their legal status in this country is beyond heartbreaking – it’s cruel. Every one of them will lose their work authorisation and be at risk for deportation,” the agency said. It has called for people to now support the bipartisan 2017 Dream Act. 

Facebook’s Mark Zuckeberg, who was outspoken in his support before today’s announcement, wrote: “This is a sad day for our country. The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.

“The young people covered by DACA are our friends and neighbours. They contribute to our communities and to the economy. I’ve gotten to know some Dreamers over the past few years, and I’ve always been impressed by their strength and sense of purpose. They don’t deserve to live in fear.” He also called on people to support the 2017 Dream Act. 

Before today’s confirmation, as has become de rigeur, elites from the tech industry penned a joint letter to Trump, outlining the case for DACA recipients to remain in the country. “All DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes,” stated the letter, which, speaking of household names, was signed and endorsed by executives from across the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and myriad others.

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The letter, which addressed Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell alongside the President, stated how entrenched – and valuable – a part of US society DACA recipients had become. “More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees,” the letter made plain.

The day before the announcement was due, the #DefendDACA hashtag started trending. 

That initial drive was reinforced by a similarly emotive Facebook post from Zuckerberg, who touched on rhetoric from Martin Luther King, declaring: “I stand with the Dreamers – the young people brought to our country by their parents. Many have lived here as long as they can remember. Dreamers have a special love for this country because they can’t take living here for granted.” Zuckerberg’s input wasn’t confined to his personal statement, either; the joint letter itself was published on FWD.us, a bipartisan site which the Facebook founder backs.

What is DACA?

Launched in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Program was set up to offer young immigrants the chance to apply for protection from deportation. If successful, the protection is temporary and does not give such immigrants legal status. It also doesn’t mean they are guaranteed citizenship later in life. Instead, it means they can legally work in the UK and apply for a driving licence, for example while under the program. 

To apply for temporary protection, applicants must have been under 31 as of June 15, 2012 and arrived in the US before their 16th birthday. They also must have lived continuously in the States from June 15, 2007 and are currently studying, or have graduated from high school or earned a certificate of completion of high school or GED. People who receive approval from DACA are referred to as ‘Dreamers.’

Campaigners argue that many would have been brought to the US without any knowledge of their illegal status and it is unfair to punish them, especially if they have studied in the US and plan to contribute to its economy through taxes in the future.  Critics — including Trump administration official Attorney General Jeff Sessions — believe the program is too broad and its giving Dreamers hope that they will be able to stay indefinitely. 

It is unclear what the Trump Administration will do with the information collected through the program with many fearing that there is effectively a database of people who could easily be found and deported. A post from Berkeley giving advice to applicants says: “DACA is discretionary, and thus this program may be discontinued under the Trump Administration at any time. Individuals with DACA may lose work authorisation or may not be allowed to renew their work authorisation. If this happens, we will work with students to brainstorm creative strategies with regards to both legal status and work authorisation.”

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