Policy, Justice

The future of DACA hangs in the balance

The end of DACA would mean the end of dreams and the beginning of constant fear of deportation.

Since the 2016 election, anyone who isn’t a white, straight, male citizen has had to reevaluate their feelings of safety and belonging in the United States. The new presidency has sparked bigotry, sexism, and racism across the country. Now fearing for their place in the country they call home are the Dreamers.

The Dreamers are a group of people who are recipients of an Obama-era program called DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, created in 2012. This program is specifically for undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children. While DACA doesn’t provide a path to citizenship, it allows this group of people to live legally in the U.S., enabling them to get drivers licenses, fly on planes, attend college, get work permits, and more. DACA recipients need to renew their status every two years, they must be enrolled in high school/G.E.D. programs or already have their high school/G.E.D. diploma, and cannot have a serious criminal record.

DACA isn’t a perfect solution to a complex immigration issue, but it at least allows young people in the U.S. to pursue jobs and education. It allows them, essentially, to live as citizens.

The new administration wants to take that away.

Trump announced in September that he would be ending the DACA program and Congress is scrambling to come up with a new program. The original deadline by which the DACA program would expire was said to be March 5th, but that day came and passed because Congress failed to come up with a solution. For now, DACA recipients can keep renewing their permits, but the future of the program remains uncertain. Without DACA, almost 700,000 people would be vulnerable to deportation. As the majority of the Dreamers were brought to the U.S. when they were young, they might not remember their birth country, and may not even know anyone there.

Luckily, DACA is not without advocates as both Dreamers and government figures have been speaking out. Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, recently spoke on behalf of the Dreamers, urging that Congress come up with a replacement for DACA. This wasn’t any old speech— it was eight hours long and uninterrupted, not even for a bathroom break, and Pelosi did it all in heels. Talk about girl power.

Since Trump’s announcement to end the program, Dreamers have been speaking out and pleading the Trump administration to keep DACA. Because of DACA, many of the Dreamers have pursued impressive careers and are on the road to achieving dreams. Profiles of notable Dreamers have been circulating around social media, proving not just how essential DACA has been for their own livelihoods but for the success of the nation. For example, Jesus Contreras is a DACA recipient and a firefighter who saved lives after Hurricane Harvey in Texas. A few months ago HuffPost featured an article written by a Dreamer who had attended Harvard and wants to use his degree to work towards ending issues like domestic violence.

For these Dreamers, the end of DACA would mean the end of these dreams and beginning of a life of constant fear of discovery and deportation.

I think it’s important to highlight the Dreamers who have thrived thanks to the opportunities that DACA allows. The achievements of DACA recipients that go viral on social media are the ones who have done truly impressive and heroic things. Those representations serve to show how beneficial the program is, and how much potential we might squander if we as a nation fail to allow Dreamers to exist in the U.S.

But I think that we also need to be careful with spotlighting only the extremely successful DACA recipients. Not every Dreamer is going to save lives or go to one of the most prestigious university in the country, and that should have no bearing on their ability to stay in the country they call home. Part of the reason why we glorify the American dream, after all, is because it is subjective. 

Dreamers deserve to be here, and we’re all willing to fight the powers that threaten to take them away.