Dreamers: The Victims of a Broken Immigration System

You’ve likely heard that President Trump is at it again with another heartless policy change: the termination of DACA. What is DACA, you ask? Why does the Trump Administration want it gone? And what would happen if it was abolished?

Over the years, Congress tried and failed various times to pass immigration reform, leaving young students and workers at risk of deportation. During President Obama’s presidency, he fought for legislation in favor of allowing DACA recipients, or Dreamers, permanent residency in the United States. DACA recipients are allowed safety from deportation, driver’s licenses, the ability to attend college, and to secure jobs. They make up a valuable part of the American workforce, and they even pay income taxes. President Obama signed The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in the summer of 2012. Since then, DACA has allowed some 800,000 individuals who were illegally brought to this country as minors to come out of the shadows and live fulfilling lives.

According to The Hill, 74% of Americans support a DACA-like policy, including two thirds of Republicans. Several Republicans in Congress are also softening up to protective legislation for Dreamers. So why end DACA? Some Republicans, generally against looser immigration laws, took aim at the constitutionality of DACA as an executive order. Representative Steve King said of President Obama, “…the President does not have the authority to waive immigration law, nor does he have the authority to create it out of thin air.” Ten conservative attorneys general threatened to sue unless DACA was rescinded, on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. To deter a lawsuit, the Trump administration announced the phasing out of DACA.

President Trump and his administration don’t necessarily want the Dreamers deported. He put the pressure on Congress to come up with legislation to replace DACA before it expires in March. The president is already in talks with Democrats to accomplish this task.

DACA is a saving grace to many, but it’s not without its flaws. It could be struck down by any president, any time. Applying for DACA is risky too. Prospective recipients turn over their personal information to the federal government. Should DACA be terminated without replacement, the government would then have the information of thousands of unauthorized illegal aliens, putting them at risk of deportation. Every two years, recipients must apply for renewal. It is a short-term fix for a large issue. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said it best. “DACA was never more than parole — a bureaucratic delay — that never promised the rights of citizenship or legal status in this country. And for that reason, DACA was fundamentally a lie that left recipients in two-year cycles of uncertainty.”

This spring DACA recipients will begin to lose their protected status. Without another piece of legislation to replace it, they’ll be at the mercy of the federal government. Their place in this country, their home country, will be uncertain. Protection, work permits, and driver’s licenses will all be revoked. Everything they worked to achieve will be lost. They will lose their jobs and return to a life of illegality.

In an attempt to better understand their concerns, I spoke to a friend and DACA recipient about her current situation. Elizabeth was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was four years old. She is a high school graduate and currently works as a medical assistant.

What are you mostly worried about?

I am really worried about deportation. I’ve heard that even though DACA is expiring, we won’t be “high priority” for deportation, but it still really freaks me out. I live with and around a lot of people who probably would be considered high priority and I feel like I could easily be sent back along with them. I don’t know Mexico. Mexico is not my home. I’ve lived here forever. I’ve followed the rules. I work hard. It is just horrifying to me that it could all just get wiped away. My whole life just feels like it’s in limbo right now.

You have a few family members who are affected by this as well, right?

Yeah, my younger cousins are DACA recipients. I’m more worried about them! At least I have had a proper education and some training. They’re so young! It makes me sick to think that they may not be able to do normal things like go to college and get a driver’s license.

What would you say to other young Americans who don’t understand what you have to go through?

This is my home, just like it is yours! Imagine having to live not knowing if everything you’ve worked for your whole life is going to last. I’m tired of not feeling 100% comfortable in my home. My parents may have come here illegally, but I have done absolutely nothing wrong. I’m truly grateful for the opportunities that I have had here, but I am sick of feeling like a second-class citizen.

Talking to my friend, it seems clear that this is her home just as much as it is mine. They are forced to live in fear and uncertainty by no fault of their own. DACA’s clock is ticking, but there is hope that the growing support for Dreamers will translate into lasting legislation. In the words of President Trump himself, here’s hoping that Washington can “do something and do it right.”

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