President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which protects illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children — is shameful, mean-spirited, and immoral.
It’s basically telling around 800,000 people — many of whom are college-educated, tax-paying doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers, active duty military, firefighters, police, farmers — that their lives do not matter.
As someone who has been through the immigration process several times, I find that most of the arguments and opinions on DACA are incredibly misinformed.
Uninformed Argument #1: DREAMers should apply for legal citizenship just like everyone else.
This one is easy. They can’t. DREAMers entered the country illegally — which means they are also ineligible to apply for citizenship.
“But Lee! That’s no excuse! I have my birth certificate, social security number, and my parents have their records. Why should the DREAMers be any different?”
Let me ask you this: When you were a child, did you have a say in your parents’ choices? Did you, as a two-year-old, carry around a portfolio of all your most precious documents?
The answer is no.
This is the core of DACA’s good-faith support; people who, at no fault of their own, don’t have the necessary documentation to apply for citizenship were granted leniency. Congress would have to pass a law for them to be able to apply for a green card — something that has been on the table since 2001.
Uninformed Argument #2: DREAMers are trouble-makers that reap the benefits of our tax dollars.
Trump and ultra-conservative media outlets have regularly painted illegal immigrants as either drug-peddling, dangerous criminals or welfare recipients abusing the system. This stereotyped narrative and its vitriol is used to uphold a thinly constructed economic defense not rooted in reality nor fact.
Here’s the truth:
DACA applicants must have a spotless criminal record, be enrolled in high-school, or have an equivalent of a high-school diploma to qualify for deferred action. And while dissenters will harp over how DREAMers need education to compete with the rest of America and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, yadda, yadda yadda — it isn’t that simple. Even if DREAMers are college-educated or currently attending a university, they are not eligible for Financial Aid and must pay out-of-pocket.
No trust fund parents or wealthy relatives — they are on their own.
In addition to this, DREAMers pay DACA renewal fees every two years, which roughly breakdown to this:
- $495 renewal fees
- $380 application fees
- $85 biometrics fees (fingerprints and photograph)
DREAMers pay more to live in an expensive system that doesn’t benefit them. Which rolls into the next argument…
Uninformed Argument #3: DREAMers are unemployed and have no incentive to work.
This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Immigrants that qualify for DACA must have come to the country prior to 2007, and fall in an age range of 15 or younger upon arrival or younger than 31 when the DACA program was created in June 2012.
DREAMers are doctors, lawyers, active duty military, police, farmers, and pre-school teachers. They are your neighbors, fellow PTA members, and worship with you on Sundays. They even pay Social Security and taxes out of their paychecks, just like you and I.
Their DACA status has encouraged them to seek education, gainful employment, and homeownership because they consider themselves American.
They are also motivated to improve their lives financially due to their conditional status. In 2014, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA found that nearly 84 percent of DACA immigrants were employed in part-time or full-time positions. In that same study, DACA recipients were found to have earned 20 percent more than immigrants that did not have DACA.
DREAMers pay into a system that doesn’t benefit them; they are law-abiding, tax-paying individuals who value education. If anything, they are contributing to the system — not burdening it.
Uninformed Argument #3: DREAMers are part of a surge of illegal immigration from Central America that must be stopped.
Again, completely false. Not all DREAMers are Mexican or herald from Central America, just like not all illegal immigrants come from South of the border. Many DREAMers arrived in the U.S. from around the world to parents with legal work permits. Over time, these parents remained in the States after their visas expired; some may have attempted to gain U.S. asylum and failed in the process.
Pew Research delved into the matter even more:
In short: DREAMers are being punished for the acts of their parents. They have grown up with the same distinct American experience as any U.S. citizen, yet they are typically stereotyped to fit a narrative rooted in stereotypes and racism. Don’t fall for it.
What can you do?
DREAMers have just as much right to belong to the American experiment as any American citizen. But to allow positive, contributing members of society to face deportation — to potentially rip apart families in the name of politics — is shameful and unacceptable.
If you consider yourself a Christian, this is not “loving thy neighbor as thyself.”
If you are for social justice issues, rallying, and marching for causes important to you — then rally and march for these folks.
If you think that “All Lives Matter,” then you should be up in arms to show compassion to those at risk.
If you are pro-life and champion family values, then you should be ready to mobilize against the vulnerable and uphold the family even beyond the womb.
And to the politically conscious: Write letters to your congressional representatives. Contact your state legislatures. Make your voice heard at your local university. But don’t stop there. If you know a DREAMer, lend a hand. Connect them with your community resources. Do something.
The world is in serious need of decency. Until Congress decides to act on President Trump’s 6-month DREAMer delay, it may be all some of us have to offer.