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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2018 / January 

DACA, a red herring for broader immigration reform ahead of midterms? Or 2020?

January 24, 2018

Christian Matheis, director of the Office of Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives at Virginia Tech
Christian Matheis, director of the Office of Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives at Virginia Tech

Neither party may want to deal with broad immigration reform in an election year --  so a prolonged focus on DACA provides them a way out of the larger debate, for now, says a Virginia Tech expert whose research focuses on critiques of immigration and border policies.

“The lives of the actual DACA immigrants seems to garner far less consideration than the ambiguous notion of DACA as a piece on the game board” says Virginia Tech’s Christian Matheis. “And it may be that neither of the two major political parties has a strong commitment to DACA holders in the long-run. In fact, talking about DACA is probably only slightly more palatable for federal politicians than talking about immigration reform.”

Background

On February 8, 2018 the current spending bill will expire and congressional members have stated they hope to come to an agreement on immigration policy. A part of this policy may involve DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which is set to expire on March 5, 2018.   

Quoting Matheis

“Some political factions among federal lawmakers appear to have identified DACA status holders as a vulnerable population, while other factions treat them like a risky investment, or as a political gamble. Still, a few others consider DACA immigrant status as the current defining issue of national political integrity. The legal and political issues have attention, but the people living as DACA immigrants get far less consideration, if at all.”

“Anti-immigrant regressives and conservatives can threaten DACA holders to pander to a small, very loud constituency while seemingly pro-immigrant moderates and liberals can claim to be the primary allies of DACA recipients and other migrant populations.”

“Offering a full pathway to citizenship for DACA status holders takes them off the gameboard, so to speak, and potentially clears a path to a more deliberate focus on U.S. immigration reform. A decent political outcome stabilizes a controversial quandary, and does so by eliminating the opportunity for different factions to treat vulnerable populations as pawns. DACA immigrants and their supporters could seize the moment and change the debate “

About Matheis

Matheis is the director of the Office of Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives at Virginia Tech’s Graduate School, and Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs. He specializes in topics that bridge ethics and political philosophy with public policy. Read his full bio here.

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