With President Trump jeopardizing the Obama era program known as Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals, nearly 800,000 young people’s lives may be completely uprooted and thrown into chaos.
Some find this controversial decision to be an issue that doesn’t affect actual U.S. citizens, but this could not be further from the truth.
For those unaware of what DACA is, the premise of the program is relatively simple. Enacted in 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security, applicants for the program had to be under the age of 16 when they arrived in the U.S. and lived there since June 2007. Applicants could be no more than 30 at the time of applying. Although the program didn’t grant a path to U.S. citizenship of permanent residency (a stipulation that I personally criticize), it does allow applicants to enroll in universities, obtain driver’s licenses and legally work jobs.
In addition to that, applicants under DACA paid income taxes. Under DACA, applicants could defer deportation for two years and then apply for renewal. The term, “Dreamers” in reference to individuals protected under the program comes from the DREAM Act, where legal status was offered in exchange for joining the military or enrolling in college. Although the bill was ultimately voted down, the name stuck for undocumented immigrants brought here as children.
With the bill being rescinded, several hundred thousand people who have lived in the U.S. since they were children are in peril of facing deportation. This is deeply disturbing to me for several reasons.
First, although Dreamers aren’t citizens on paper, they are citizens. For those that are now adults or are teenagers in the workforce, they pay taxes, work, go to school and make actual contributions to society. They are law abiding, with only around 0.2 percent being taken off the program because of criminal related activity. They’ve learned American society and have embraced it in their own way. To send them to countries that many of them have never been to is a slap in the face to what they have contributed to America.
Secondly, the law breaker narrative is ridiculous. How can one punish someone for the actions of their parents? If a young person stays with drug addicted parents, does he or she gets charged with a drug crime too? Their parents may have broken the law, but how far would your parents go to ensure that you have a decent life and a chance to make something of yourself?
Lastly, as cliché as this sounds, this country is supposed to be a land of opportunity. Another cliché: this land was built off of immigrants. Our Founding Fathers who set the foundation for how the country works today were close descendants of immigrants (who forcefully took the country away from Native Americans for those who have forgotten). DACA provided an opportunity for immigrants who have grown up here to build careers, give back and become productive individuals who our country should value. It is insanely cruel to give an opportunity to someone and then abruptly take that opportunity away after years of hard work while simultaneously insulting their parents by calling them criminals for trying to do right by them.
If reading this still doesn’t resonate with you, consider this: some of our peers are protected under DACA. They worked hard to get into an elite university just like the rest of us while facing hurtful stigmatization. I dare another student, faculty member, or Wake Forest employee to defend taking away this opportunity from one of my peers. They’re no less of a Demon Deacon than you are.