We need to keep fighting for DACA
Since President Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, the program has helped almost 800,000 undocumented immigrants. Yet recently, a number of conservative state attorneyS general threatened legal action against President Trump if his administration did not take steps to end the program by September 5. The President responded to that threat by in turn calling on Congress to act in regards to the program, which is set to end in March of 2018. While Trump has been working with Democrats and Republicans on a deal, the Department of Homeland Security is halting the acceptance of new DACA applications, and the thousands who have already received DACA status are at risk of deportation.
Most Americans support DACA — 85 percent, according to one recent poll — and they do so for good reasons. Recipients of DACA, individuals who arrived in the U.S. as minors, have already set up their lives in this country and are deeply integrated into American society. Fifty-six percent of Dreamers — those protected by DACA — are registered voters, 72 percent are a part of a higher education system, 80 percent have drivers licenses, and 90 percent have jobs.
But despite these facts, there remains a perception that DACA opposes American ideology of individualism. Despite the persistent reality of deeply entrenched wealth inequality, our society still largely promotes a “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” mentality, in which how much we reap is directly correlational to how much we sow. Those who have access to power therefore assume they are entitled to it because they “earned” it, and that programs like DACA unfairly hand benefits on a silver platter to people who didn’t put in the work to achieve them. If undocumented individuals were worthy of citizenship, some seem to reason, then they would have gotten the proper documentation to enter the country legally. In reality, documentation is a complicated, lengthy process. Even some immigrants who are eligible to enter the country find themselves waiting decades to do so, since the current immigration system in place only permits 7 percent of the visas available to be received. And, of course, the ultimate irony is that no “natural-born” U.S. citizen can call a country on which their ancestors committed genocide their own no matter how hard they’ve worked here.
Conservative news sites like Breitbart and the Blaze also often dehumanize immigrants by referring to them as “Illegal aliens,” or even “illegals.” While people often associate the word “illegal” with criminality, research has shown that immigrants are actually 50 percent less likely than their American-born counterparts to commit crimes. According to Boston University professor Christopher Salas-Wright, who has researched antisocial behavior, “People who choose to pick up their lives and move to a foreign country and set up a new life...tend to be interested in making this new life work.” It makes sense that people who risked it all to come to the United States probably don’t want to live out their American dream in a jail cell.
In addition to the fear-mongering about violence, another false narrative maintains that undocumented individuals are stealing money from other Americans. As one Hill commentator recently wrote, “Thanks to DACA, taxpayers spend hundreds of millions annually to reunite the (mostly) uneducated minors with their (mostly) illegal alien parents in the U.S. That’s money that should have gone to support schools, hospitals, and job-training for American youth.” Yet these same conservatives seem unconcerned when the president they voted for spends taxpayers’ money on his own extravagant living expenses, like extraneous vacations, and creating missiles for a conflict he continues to unnecessarily escalate. What’s more, repealing DACA would actually be a real fiscal concern for our country: Arrest and removal of 800,000 Dreamers would cost nearly $10 billion, whereas the annual budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement is $5 billion.
Being born in America is a relatively unrecognized privilege. Most natural-born citizens have not had to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” to succeed in the way that immigrants seeking a better life in this nation have had to. Those who oppose DACA, and especially those who want to “build a wall” and curb immigration altogether, need to stop labelling their attempt to protect their own privilege as “protecting” their country.
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