In Defense of DACA – Protecting our DREAMers

James Cantu

September 13th, 2017

A rally against the Trump Administration’s decision to end Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) took place in downtown Los Angeles (Photo provided by Anna Gorman)

The Trump administration’s unwillingness to defend Deferred Action of Child Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA, shows an apparent lack of empathy for those affected by its repeal.

DACA is the result of an executive order made by former President Barack Obama in 2012 that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation by providing a renewable two year work permit. The work permit does not place them as a priority for deportation.

The DACA recipients are sometimes called DREAMers, named after a bill that failed in Congress which would have allowed undocumented children the opportunity to potentially gain legal residency.

Applicants were subjected to a strict enrollment process whose stipulations included, but were not limited to: Coming to the U.S. before turning 16; currently attending school, have obtained a high school diploma or GED, or is an honorably discharged veteran from the U.S. military; have no felonies, significant misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

“The whole process to even apply for DACA was fairly expensive and it involved a lot of extra work hours for my dad to be able to give me the opportunity to apply,” St. Xavier Freshman and DACA recipient, Leslie Abarca, said. “Although the process took a toll on my family financially, DACA was a blessing. It was a gateway for me to continue my education and it gave me the ability to finally work to cover family expenses and to help my family have another source of income.”

The Trump administration’s plans to “wind down” DACA goes against what the United States is believed to be, the land of opportunity. The Trump administration has made it clear: the United States has opportunities for advancement, but it’s not for immigrants who wish to become legal residents.

One common misconception about DACA is that it offers a path to citizenship. DACA only grants its applicants the ability to provide a source of income through working legally and the ability to attend school.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, the first DREAMer elected to Congress, spoke on the differences in immigration policies under the Reagan era and now.

“Our visas expired, but thanks to an immigration system that, back then, actually worked, we were able to readjust our status and be able to re-apply for legal residency and, ultimately, citizenship,” Kihuen said. “That’s the problem with our system right now: over 40 percent of undocumented immigrants in America today came here with a visa but overstayed their visas, [and] there is no way for them to readjust their status.”

Employers of DREAMers could sponsor their employee for a green card, or the DREAMers could obtain a green card through Advanced Parole,  but the process is often arduous, costly, and filled with stipulations that would make it hard for the average person to navigate– if they even qualify.

Another common misconception is that DACA recipients receive access to federal benefits, which includes federally sponsored financial aid and Obamacare. Since one of the stipulations to be on DACA requires enrollment in school, DACA students must rely on scholarships and private loans for their educational funding.

The Trump Administration’s choice to deport rather than embrace a generation where most spent the majority of their life as a law-abiding United States citizens completely disregards all the hard work the DREAMers and their families went through to create a new life.

Congress has six months to come up with new legislation that would affect the lives of roughly 690,000 DREAMers when their work permits expire.

“The amount of money and time it takes for a DACA application to even process is agonizing, and to have it all taken away due to a misunderstanding on what DACA really is, is horrifying.” Abarca said.

James Cantu

Opinions Columnist

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