Mexico will lobby the United States Congress to protect young immigrants known as dreamers after yesterday’s announcement to scrap the law that protects them from deportation, a move that could see hundreds of thousands forced to return to their country of birth.
President Donald Trump’s administration said it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy in March 2018, giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative alternative.
Almost 800,000 dreamers — most of them Mexicans — have benefitted from the program introduced by former president Barack Obama in 2012.
President Enrique Peña Nieto said his government “deeply regrets” the program’s cancelation and promised via Twitter that Mexico “stands alongside them.”
Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray said the Mexican government would focus its efforts on lobbying the U.S. Congress to guarantee legal certainty for the young immigrants before the six-month timeframe has passed, adding that it may turn to international law for support.
He indicated that Mexico not only deeply regrets the phasing out of the DACA program but is very concerned about the immigrants’ legal uncertainty.
“The government of Mexico clearly understands that immigration policy decisions in the United States are solely for U.S. citizens and their institutions. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the majority of these young people, more than 600,000, were born in Mexico. Therefore, we have a moral imperative to act through diplomatic channels . . . .”
Yesterday’s announcement coincided with the final day of the second round of NAFTA renegotiation talks but Videgaray said it would not affect that process.
Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Gerónimo Gutiérrez, also stressed that Mexico would defend the dreamers’ rights, saying at a press conference that the federal government will ensure they have “adequate representation.”
However, if it were necessary for them to return to Mexico, he said they would do so under the “best conditions” while a government statement said that “Mexico will receive dreamers who return to our country with open arms.”
The head of Mexico’s largest university described the DACA cancelation as a sign of xenophobia and hate. Enrique Graue Wiechers, rector of the National Autonomous University, said the problem would be identifying where the youths wished to go upon arriving in Mexico and finding them spaces in the educational system.
Undersecretary for North American relations Carlos Manuel Sada said that a special labor bank would be created for returning dreamers. Loans at preferential rates, national and international scholarships, access to education without unnecessary bureaucratic procedures, revalidation of studies completed in the U.S. and access to health care will also be available to returnees.
While Mexico is taking steps to help dreamers integrate into Mexican society should the need arise, Sada expressed concern that changes to legislation could unleash a “witch hunt” aimed at dreamers whose permission to be in the United States under DACA had expired.
Dreamers are officially described as undocumented migrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and have lived there since June 15, 2007. They had to be under 30 when the dreamers policy was enacted in 2012.