Illegal or not, I'm still here: An Ode to DACA.
At 15, I was often asked was “Why haven’t you gotten your learner’s permit yet?” given that one of the biggest things teenagers want is the freedom to drive. I told my interrogators that I was just extremely scared of driving. I mean, operating a 4,000 pound machine that can kill you at any second is pretty terrifying, right? In reality, I was undocumented and there was absolutely no possible way for me to obtain my driver’s license.
Then came this policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
For those not familiar with this immigration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was established by the Obama administration in 2012 and it allows immigrants who came to the United States as minors to apply for consideration of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work authorization. This policy is essentially a placeholder for recipients. There is no direction or intention towards obtaining citizenship or permanent residency for Dreamers. DACA recipients were only expected to renew their status every two years for as long as the policy stood.
As part of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on September 5th that the Trump administration is officially revoking DACA, calling the policy “unconstitutional” and that it had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans.” I can’t believe I still have to say this in 2017 - immigrants DO NOT come here with the intent of stealing American jobs. In fact, the work that undocumented immigrants do is often low-paying and laborious. These are jobs that Americans most likely wouldn’t be willing to work. If it’s our national security that Sessions is concerned about, it is important to note that anyone convicted of a serious crime is ineligible for DACA. If it’s Dreamer’s monetary worth that Sessions is concerned about, we should also note that if DACA is permanently rescinded and 800,000 “Dreamers” end up being deported, our economy would lose out on an estimated $280 million.
The Trump administration’s decision to rescind this policy is perhaps one of the most cruel actions I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. Many of these 800,000 “Dreamers” have no recollection of their home countries and some don’t even speak their native languages. Statistics clearly show that this action is detrimental to all aspects of our country.
I don’t particularly like talking about how my family immigrated here illegally. When I tell people this, I instantly see their posture and facial expressions change during our conversation. Being undocumented is like living in a permanent shadow. You’re technically a functioning part of society but in the system, you don’t exist. I lived in this shadow for seven years and I can confidently say that if it wasn’t for DACA, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Thanks to this policy, I was able to obtain a Social Security number, my longed after driver’s license, and a work permit. For the past week, the only thing crossing my mind is that if DACA had been rescinded a year and a half ago, I would be fearing deportation along with the nearly one million Dreamers.
As someone who now has the privilege of having permanent resident status, I can say with everything in me, I will never stop fighting for immigrant rights. As our hope continues to dim under this administration, all we can do is have faith in Congress for the next six months to do what is right.
To my Dreamers, we belong here. Illegal or not, we’re still here.