President Trump's decision to unwind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that his predecessor ordered in 2012 will resonate in many rural places, where DACA beneficiaries and their families have become integral parts of the economy and social fabric. They are likely to get more attention, some of it unwelcome, as Congress debates whether to continue the program for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
"Most were 10 years old or younger at the time of entry," the Center for Rural Affairs reported in March. "These children grew up attending the same schools, watching the same television, and living in the same neighborhoods as children who were born in the U.S. Today, the average DACA recipient is 22 years old, has a job, is pursuing higher education, and makes $17 an hour; more successful than the average American born in the country ages 20 to 24."
The center, based in Nebraska, cites the town of Schuyler, where the population of 6,200 is about 70 percent Latino, many of whom work at a Cargill Inc. beef processing plant. It quotes Mayor David Reinecke: "Schuyler would be dead without Latinos." And wherever Latinos are prevalent, the DACA beneficiaries known as "dreamers" are likely to be, too.
In rural areas, they may find that life will become more difficult. Cindy Carcamo of the Los Angeles Times reports, "In rural America and places where there are very few immigrants — being a Dreamer can be very isolating, said Roberto Gonzales, a Harvard University sociologist who has been studying DACA and its recipients throughout the nation."
Gonzales told Carcamo, “In the absence of federal immigration reform states, counties and municipalities have been left to craft local solutions to a broken immigration system. . . . While mayors in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle have pledged to remain sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, smaller rural areas will not be able to shield young people. And in less populated areas, young immigrants may be more vulnerable to apprehension and hate crimes.”