Deliberating DACA’s future
Melanie Yost | Contributor | USD Vista
Students recently watched the country become polarized following President Donald Trump’s decision to stop accepting applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.
On Sept. 22, students gathered for a “lunch and learn” discussion on DACA in their Political Communication class. The discussion was held in Mother Rosalie Hill Hall. Students were encouraged to become politically knowledgeable on major topics such as DACA, hoping to make mature, political discussions and debates the norm across USD.
DACA was established by an executive order from President Barack Obama in 2012 to give undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a renewable two-year deferment, during which they can legally work and attend school. The move to end the program leaves DACA in the hands of Congress, which must make a decision regarding the fate of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients known as “Dreamers.”
Junior Hunter Smith shared his belief that Congress should intervene on behalf of the “Dreamers.”
“Congress should do something to help,” Smith said. “When you look at the numbers and you look at all that DACA entails, 800,000 people is a lot of people. All of those 800,000 people are 100 percent helping our community.”
Helping the community was a common theme brought up at the DACA deliberation. Students often referred to the fact that many “Dreamers” are young adults trying to gain an education in America. Smith and his classmates contended that after completing their education, “Dreamers” are likely to give back to their communities, many of which are underserved areas.
A study by the Center for American Progress found eliminating DACA workers would cause California to suffer a gross domestic product (GDP) loss of $11.3 billion per year.
DACA recipient Alejandra Gonzalez explained to the New York Times that education has allowed “Dreamers” like her to give back to society.
“There are ‘Dreamers’ that have become lawyers, doctors, police officers and small business owners thanks to DACA,” Gonzalez said. “We are a group of hardworking individuals who just want the opportunity at a better life.”
With DACA recipients making societal contributions as significant as these, students at the “lunch and learn” could not agree on any reason why DACA recipients shouldn’t be allowed to stay. Students were encouraged to look at the opposing argument that “Dreamers” are taking jobs away from U.S. citizens. Smith believed that even though “Dreamers” may not have all of their documents, they’re still Americans.
“It’s tough to say, ‘Americans should have this job,’ when technically [‘Dreamers’] are Americans,” Smith said. “They just haven’t gotten all the things certifying them.”
DACA recipients are already documented with the government and have received social security numbers, but DACA is not a direct path to citizenship. Smith’s statement is representative of many Americans who believe that immigrants should be allowed to pursue the American dream.
Senior Aubrey Ward-El believes that “Dreamers” working in America are not taking jobs away from citizens, but are helping the economy.
“Many of them are working jobs that citizens don’t want to work,” Ward-El said. “I do not want to talk bad about our own U.S. citizens, but there are people that are not doing anything here and we accept them. We are not going to try to send them off. [‘Dreamers’] want to be here because they love our country, probably more so than some people who were born here.”
Students at the discussion said that they believed DACA eligibility requirements leave little room for harm. Guidelines state that recipients must either be in school, have graduated, received a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the US military. They must have come to the US before age 16, cannot have a criminal history, and must have lived in the US continuously since 2007.
A large portion of the “lunch and learn” was heavily focused on who the “Dreamers” are and what they’re doing now, but Ward-El and Smith believe people should be considering who the “Dreamers” could become.
“We have a shortage of [physicians] right now,” Smith said. “‘Dreamers’ are trying to contribute in that area.”
Ward-El echoed Smith’s statements, citing statistics she found in her research.
“There was an 83 percent increase in DACA students applying for med school. A lot [of ‘Dreamers’] are general physicians and children’s doctors,” Ward-El said. “People really need to just take the emotion out of it. You have to be educated on [DACA]. They’re not these bad people. They’re trying to do good things. They’re trying to save your kid when your kid is sick. Your kid’s dying? This person might be able to save their life. Look at it that way.”
But not everyone sees it like Ward-El. Many opposers argue that DACA is unconstitutional.
Students at the discussion discovered that DACA was originally created after Congress voted “no” on the DREAM Act, a proposal preceding DACA that would have granted undocumented immigrants permanent residency. In response to this, President Obama established the DACA program by executive order.
Opposers of the program argue that despite coming to the U.S. at a young age, “Dreamers” are undocumented and are therefore breaking immigration law and cannot stay.
While Smith understands that laws are laws, circumstances need to be considered.
“It’s really tough,” Smith said. “There are a lot of people who are trying to come to the U.S. legally and do it the right way. I want to support and help them too. But all of those 800,000 [‘Dreamers’] are 100 percent contributing to our community, so you can’t say, ‘Oh, kick them out.’”
Ward-El understood that people were upset by the way DACA came to be, but said she didn’t feel that was any reason to do away with the program.
“I get that there’s laws in place for a reason and that some people argue that the decision to establish DACA was unconstitutional or it was just one man’s decision,” Ward-El said. “You can’t just send young adults back to where they came from. They came from there, but they don’t know anyone from there.”
Students agreed that a better solution is needed for those trying to come to the US legally, but said that punishing DACA recipients was not the answer.
“You have to think of everyone as a human,” Ward-El said. “As humans we have to have each other’s back.”
Congress has until March 2018 to make their decision. The subject of DACA is both sensitive and critical. Students are working hard to educate themselves to form intelligent answers when asked why they believe what they believe.
“Lunch and learn” discussions are an insightful opportunity for students to become more politically knowledgeable on major issues. USD will continue to host similar discussions.