Signed in 2012 by the Obama Administration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that provides more than 750,000 undocumented youth with temporary work authorization and the right to live without fear of deportation in the United States of America. Ever since, DACA recipients, or “Dreamers” have come back with success stories pursuing opportunities in education, technology, business, law, and medicine to “actively contribute to their local communities & economies.” The future of many of these young people in this country, however, now lies uncertain with threats of a potential repeal of the act under the Trump administration looming overhead.
Over the past couple of days, Trump has proven to be a man of his word. On the day of his inauguration, the president signed an order to repeal Obamacare, thereby ending health insurance for millions of Americans. He has announced plans to not only go ahead with the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline, but has publicized ideas for a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of seven Middle-Eastern and African countries. With similar promises made to end DACA within his first 100 days as president-elect, it may not be long until Trump goes ahead and reverses the executive order made by his predecessor.
It had appeared to many that Trump may have softened his stance on the issue — as he is quoted to have said that he will “work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud” in his Person of the Year Interview with TIME. As of this past Monday, Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, responded to questions concerning the Trump’s immigration policy, stating that the administration’s first priority is to to deal with those who remain in the country illegally and have a criminal record.
This does not include “Dreamers,” who have undergone multiple background checks to receive their status. With no tangible solutions yet presented and Trump now in office, there is a real fear of the government using the information filed by DACA recipients to identify and deport undocumented immigrants, thereby separating them from their families.
The situation has become very threatening for many undocumented immigrants. There has been a recent surge in the number of calls made to suicide hotlines and most of the callers have been DACA recipients. Does Trump plan to separate U.S.-born children from their undocumented parents? Will he rob DACA recipients of their legal status, force them to drop out of school, and order them to leave their jobs? Will they be among the estimated 2-3 million people who will be deported from a nation they call home?
In the words of one DACA recipient who wishes to be unnamed: “I’ve lived here since I was 2, so this is the only place I’ve ever known. Up until high school, I lived a normal American life and never knew until the moment I passed my road test to get my driver’s license that I wasn’t a citizen. So, except for the fact that I couldn’t drive and vote for the man (Obama) that would one day allow me to drive and provide me with the ability to work legally, I lived a happy and fulfilling life. Now, our so-called president wants to take all the way from me and more. How will it affect me? The real question is, how will it not affect me? I can’t even begin to imagine all the lives that will be destroyed by this one man; and their only fault was trying to live a better life.”
The state of the matter has become so severe that many undocumented immigrants are being discouraged from applying for DACA status if they do not already have it to avoid personal information from getting in the hands of the government. Yet, those who are currently under the protection of DACA are still not safe as their term is set to expire sometime in the next two years.
Colleges and universities, like medical centers and religious areas, have been considered to be “sensitive locations,” where immigration authorities do not have the right to conduct enforcement activities. Jessica Hanson, a Skadden Legal Fellow at the National Immigration Law Center, states that unless this law is revised, “immigration authorities are more likely to conduct investigations in easier locales, so instead of going on campus to get a person they want, they’ll go elsewhere. There are many other ways for immigration officials to get information. Nonetheless, it is important for schools to put up every possible legal barrier to make it harder for them to get what they want.”
Since immigration officials often come to people’s homes and intimidate them into waiving their fourth amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, it is important to inform undocumented students of their freedoms.
Undocumented students have rights in this country — they have the right to an education, the right to have a future, and a right to this country’s opportunities. The Trump administration is only going back in time and destroying years of work under the Obama administration. DACA has permitted students to get a job, while finishing their degrees. DACA students consider themselves a part of the American society and are getting an education to support their families and give back to their communities. Repealing DACA will only stifle the progress that has been made by the entire nation to rehabilitate those who are under the harsh circumstance of being undocumented.
Trump’s solid stance on immigration may be unclear, but one thing is for certain — a threat against one of us is a threat against all of us. “Dreamers” are students, doctors, homeowners, and teachers. They are our coworkers, classmates, and neighbors, and they need our help. Fear and anxiety will indeed continue to circulate, yet we must remain strong.
There are multiple ways the average citizen can exercise his/her rights and help push for the protection of DACA:
- Contact your elected local representatives and let them know how you feel. Your U.S. representative’s contact information can be found in this directory, and your U.S. senator’s information is in this one.
- Donate to organizations such as United We Dream, America’s Voice, and the Civil Liberties Union working toward defending immigrant rights.
- Don’t stop Marching. Organize events in your local community to spread awareness of the issue.
- Sign this petition to ask your mayors to make their cities sanctuaries for “dreamers,” or contact your college to create their own petitions if they have not already done so. There has been widespread support for DACA recipients across the nation, with 598 college presidents out of a possible number of 4736 who have signed this letter, demanding that Trump not only continue the DACA program, but expand it.
- Refer to the Muslim Girl “Muslim Ban Guidebook” for more resources and links toknowing your rights, legal help, and advice.