DACA & What We Can Do To Help
Imagine moving at the age of 6, from a country you hardly know to a country you’d only heard about. Your parents love you, so much, they work hard and they struggle, all so you can have a good life. And you do. You go to school and you make friends. But you have challenges with learning the language. Maybe someone asks you, ‘what’s up’ and you simply reply ‘the sky’ because you haven’t mastered American slang. This kind of scenario is just an illustration of the deeper challenges you face because this whole time you actually don’t know you’re an undocumented immigrant. You turn 16 and you see your friends all getting driver’s licenses, trading their bikes in for Buicks, BMWs and Toyota Corollas. You show the DMV attendant your green card and she looks at you, leans over and whispers sympathetically, ‘This is fake, don’t come back with this again.’
The daily fear and dread that undocumented immigrants experience is real and founded in the reality that the government will separate parents from children, like the Obama administration did to more than 46,000 parents of US-citizen children in 2011. It’s founded in the fact that if you're found out you could be barred from reentering the only home you’ve known, and deported for 10 years before being given the opportunity to apply for citizenship. It’s founded in the fact that any routine traffic stop for a minor infraction, like driving below the speed limit or even a non-infraction like traveling with a group of fellow Mexicans, something innocent in and of itself - but something that can ping the police’s knack for racial profiling as justified by ‘being tough on immigration’ - can sweep you into a process like the one that landed Manuel, a father and husband, detained for over a month. The same kind of sweeping profiling that affects those of Hispanic descent is identical to the largely ineffective ‘stop-and-frisk’ tactics used in New York and around the country. None of the tricks are new, but the injustices tend to happen to the same groups, people of color, time and time again.
Leezia Dhalla, a news reporter of African and Indian descent, felt a pang of panic when her father was picked up and detained, right as she was getting her student aid check for college. To get him out from behind the barbwire in South Texas she had to change the recipient of that check from her school to the US government. That simply should never happen. But unfortunately, it happens all the time. You can find at least 34,000 immigrants detained on any given day because of Congress's ‘detention-bed mandate’, a mandate that is linked directly to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s funding. The number of detention-bed mandates have gone up steadily since it’s introduction in 2009.
Naturally, this incentivizes ICE to go above and beyond in disrupting the lives and livelihoods of good people, not because they’re violent criminals, but because over half of the detainees are held at for-profit prisons. Sometimes the detainees are stuck for weeks and months, for no equitable reason. Why release someone when you’re getting paid per bed filled? On the contrary, you’d do everything in your power to keep them there. It doesn’t matter to those doing the detaining that this entirely cruel mandate costs 2 billion dollars a year, not when it’s making for-profit prisons rich. The problem of mass incarceration stretches far and wide in this country and this is just one example of how toxic and wrong it is and how many lives it affects.
The use of ‘law’ to enact injustice is a tried and true mechanism of those who would justify their entrenched war on equality, and this is just one example in its impacts on immigrants. There is a parallel here - in the way that black folks are treated throughout American history, in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, in the way that the Japanese were treated during and after World War II, in the way that the Native Americans were treated when labeled as savages and subsequently punished for simply existing, in the way that women find themselves fighting against an unfair designation as a second class citizen when it comes to pay, social status and respect. There is a consistent pattern in American history of a group being labeled as lesser than, targeted in their perceived weakness and then exploited, eradicated, transplanted and/or disadvantaged. Vox states that "With DACA hanging in the balance, America has a group of people on the verge of being socially integrated, but legally isolated — socially championed, but legally victimized — in a way we’ve never really seen before.” But this type of legislative failure on the scale that we’re seeing it, is actually nothing new. It is just another in a long line of the government failing to govern with a compass of equality.
These discriminative practices continue today because lies prop them up in their perpetuation. A justification for the cruel exclusion of immigrants’ civil liberties is that they’re stealing our jobs and bringing crime. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Cities with higher immigrant populations have lower crime rates. In New York, they make up 46% of the workforce. They also work more hours across the board when compared to US born New Yorkers. You can find this trend across the country. 'New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston are all major immigrant destinations and also economic powerhouses, accounting for roughly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product.'
Clearly, discriminating against immigrants costs us all dearly. But accepting that we are all immigrants in one way or another, and realizing the truth - that immigrants make our country great - doesn’t just make sense, it’s our moral imperative to preach, perpetuate and make our lasting reality.
We have a cripplingly cruel and ignorant president who refuses to do his job and who relinquishes his responsibility, both morally and legislatively. It is impressive to me that a man, an administration and a group of people, who suffer endlessly from historical amnesia when it comes to what their ancestors perpetuated in the name of structural racism, has the audacity to punish a group of people for being brought to America by their parents, simply in the hope of building a better life.
It's a slap in the face that he took time to pardon Sheriff Arpaio, a noted racist and persecutor of immigrants as decided by a court of law, and then decided to turn around and threaten 800,000 immigrants's place in civil society. In the greater Houston area there are 85,000 undocumented immigrants and fellow residents of the US who are having their trauma compounded overnight. They're finding their lives destroyed by a natural disaster and their status threatened by a president with an unnatural obsession with disenfranchising people's livelihood with a justification built on lies. It’s an unnecessary compounding of crises that speaks volumes about the sheer ignorance and lack of care this administration exhibits.
Security Secretary, John Kelly, was questioned by Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), simply asking him if he’d actually met a DREAMer, to which he responded no. She responded saying, “If the vast majority of people who are expressing opinions about this issue had the opportunity to meet our Dreamers, they would understand it’s just the right thing to do.” This administration is clearly not seeing that these are all people, not a clump of illegality or a swath of danger, but people worth meeting, worth talking to, worth fighting for. They’re people that came here as children.
How can we as a nation not do everything to give our children the chance to succeed?
How We Can Help
There is a concerted and nauseating effort by those in government to suppress, reshape, downplay and question the truth. It is our job to find, share and use it. We are all citizens of an intersectional reality and when a group of people are threatened, we are all threatened. You don’t have to know someone affected by the rescinding of DACA to mobilize against it. And there is something we can do to fight.
- Call your attorney general and express support for the Dream Act of 2017, a bill introduced on July 20, 2017 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "A bill that, if passed, would offer a route to permanent legal status for millions of undocumented immigrant youth. "
- Go to WeAreHereToStay.com and find a local event. Show up. Make noise. Protest. (http://weareheretostay.org/attend-an-event/)
- Support the organizations at the forefront of the fight. Donate your time and/or resources. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but it’s a place to start.
"Cosecha is a new nonviolent movement fighting for permanent protection, dignity, and respect for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Our movement emerged from a year and a half of strategic planning by immigrant rights and DREAMer organizers who have watched politicians battle for our votes, only to stall legislation year after year. Our campaigns are multifaceted but all focus on building the power of the immigrant community and activating the public to our support strategy and cause."
United We Dream
"United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. Our powerful nonpartisan network is made up of over 100,000 immigrant youth and allies and 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states. We organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status."
National Immigration Law Center
"Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income.
At NILC, we believe that all people who live in the U.S. should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years, we’ve been at the forefront of many of the country’s greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and we play a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of policies that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive."
"FWD.us is mobilizing the tech community to promote policies that keep the U.S. competitive in a global economy, starting with fixing our broken immigration system and criminal justice reform."