Yesterday, the President announced he is closing the door on safety for 800,000 young immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ordered by President Obama, protected youth who arrived in the country as children from deportation. Specifically, that action aimed to protect law-abiding students and young people who served in the armed forces. Basically, the young people eligible for DACA are driven and hardworking. And truly the best of us.
For most DACAmented individuals, the U.S. is the only home they know and remember. You may know someone who is DACAmented or would have been eligible. An estimated 2.1 million people were eligible for the status. Because they grew up here, they consider themselves as American as those who were born here. Sometimes, they didn’t even realize they weren’t citizens until they were old enough to apply for a driver’s license and didn’t have a social security number to do so. For others, the realization occurred when it was time to apply to college and for Federal Student Aid. Before DACA, many of those kids had to forego their college dreams because without aid, college was financially unreachable (DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid however they can use the FAFSA to generate a needs assessment for other aid they were already eligible for- and a few states have opened state aid to DACA recipients). Because of DACA, so many young people have lived their dreams and contributed to the country they love as they always meant to do, but without the fear of being forced to leave it.
Now, without DACA, we have a small 6-month window of time for Congress to act before DACAmented individuals are in danger of deportation (the window Trump and Sessions so graciously offered). Americans risk losing friends, family, classmates and coworkers. And at least 10,000 students risk losing their teachers. I worry about how we will explain that to children. But mostly, I worry about how we will explain to kids what we did about the bigoted and xenophobic actions the Trump administration promised to do and then did. Destroying peoples’ lives for the sake of his and others’ unfounded fears is anything but kind or fair. Make no mistake, this rescission is meant to push folks out by making immigrants—undocumented or not—afraid to be in the country that they leave.
Politicians who don’t value kids regardless of their documented status can take ALL. The. Seats. This country was built and sustained partly on the backs of immigrants. Immigrant youth, often led by women, have already built movements of visibility, proclaiming that they are #unafraid and #heretostay.
WE AREN’T HAVING THAT.
Everyone—citizens and advocates—must do their part. Otherwise, we risk losing the best of us.
Here are some ways to you can take action:
Contact your senators and representatives and tell them it is now Congress’ job to correct this. Ask them to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, recently reintroduced a few months ago by Senators Durbin and Graham.
Show up. Attend a pro-dreamer rally with your DACAmented friends. Or ask your DACAmented friends how you can help.
Do not be silent.
There’s a Mexican proverb I turn to when I am feeling downtrodden that aptly applies to all of the immigrant community:
“They tried to bury us but they didn’t know that we were seeds.”
This isn’t defeat for immigrant youth. Been there, done that. Do it again.