March has arrived, and there is still no action on DACA. Around 800,000 people remain in limbo, those who voluntarily registered under the provisions of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Let me repeat: 800,000 people are at risk – people who grew up in this country as Americans, people who might very well be your friends, colleagues, students, classmates, and neighbors and you might not even know. They have had moments of hope and promise taken from them repeatedly. From one moment to the next, their lives change on a political whim.
Since before President Trump took office, there have been promises of bipartisan legislation. Under the Trump administration, there have been debates and stalemates, budget fights and threats of government shutdowns, and yet nothing has been done. DACA’s Dreamers have been used as leveraging tools in an attempt to secure money for “the wall” along the Mexican border and stricter immigration laws. They are being treated as bargaining chips and not as human beings. It is time for a clean “Dream Act”. The time for pointing fingers is over. How much longer do Dreamers have to wait in uncertainty, fearing that their lives may change every time there is a new U.S. president?
When the program was rescinded in September 2017, Attorney General Sessions said the following: “The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens” (Full speech here). This was misleading on many levels.
First, the unaccompanied minors on the southern border were not protected under DACA. In order to have qualified for DACA you would have had to arrive prior to June 15, 2012 with a parent and resided in the US for at least five years. A report published in International Migration states that the number of unaccompanied minors on the border began to rise prior to 2012 as a result of the 2008 Williams Wilberforce Trafﬁcking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, along with violence and worsening economic conditions in the countries of origin. The act did not promise citizenship and gave these children the right to a trial. It may have been perceived that these children would be protected here but they did not enter the US solely because of DACA.
Second, those “illegal aliens,” as Mr. Sessions called them, do not actually take jobs away from Americans. As a matter of fact, most economists and business leaders actually agree that the loss the Dreamers would actually be detrimental to the U.S. economy. According to a recent New York Times article, “Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimates that five years after a repeal of DACA, the nation’s gross domestic product would be $105 billion less than it would be if the program stays in place. ‘The Dreamers are on track to be a highly educated group, and losing them will be a significant blow to businesses already struggling to find educated and skilled young workers,’ Mr. Zandi wrote…’” (‘Dreamers’ Find Allies in Trump’s Business World). DACA recipients are also more than just “illegal aliens,” they are skilled workers and college students who were brought here as children – the kind of young, educated, taxpaying workers that help economies grow.
We encourage our youth to work hard and to be their best selves and yet here are 800,000 people who have to live with constant uncertainty. No matter what they do or how hard they work they can have their futures compromised in a matter of moments. It is easy to say that they will be fine if they have to go to their country of origin, but the US is their home. Many do not even remember a life prior to being here, and some no longer speak their “home” language. Their lives are here and they have contributed just as much as everyone else.
They deserve more than bickering and finger pointing. They are people, they have lives, and they are more than just a number. So why are they being used as a way to move personal agendas? Dreamers everywhere are being affected and for how much longer. How many more government shutdowns? How many more months? Years? How many more families need to be separated?
As the saying goes, “We are all Dreamers.” Dreamers can no longer continue to live in uncertainty, their well-being continues to move down on the list of priorities. They have waited long enough they have established lives here, have contributed immensely, and yet their voices are not being heard. America is a Nation of Immigrants. That the USCIS removed those words from its mission statement does not change that the US was a nation built on immigration. Dreamers need a clean “Dream Act” now, not later.