A second chance for DACA

Chase Isbell

On Jan. 22, Congress passed a bill ending the government shutdown for the next three weeks. In exchange for the votes needed to temporarily end the shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised a week of open debate concerning American immigration law, including the potential renewal of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

In the meantime, DACA has expired, leaving hundreds of thousands of undocumented American children (often referred to as “dreamers”) unprotected from potential deportation. These dreamers, or undocumented persons who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, feel threatened by this clear lack of concern for their safety.

The Trump administration and other conservative organizations have depicted dreamers as violent and threatening foreigners, when, in actuality, many of them have lived in the U.S. for the majority of their lives.

“I am an American,” proudly proclaimed one Washington and Lee University first-year student when asked about her status as a dreamer. “My entire life is here in America. . . I don’t know any country other than this one,” she said.

Within her statement lies the problems of deportation, and the notion that one’s home is not defined by country of origin. This is especially true when the individuals in question have never lived permanently in that country.

“My first memory is my cousin giving me a piggyback ride in California,” said the same student who has wished to remain anonymous and whom I shall refer to as “Jane” from here on out.

What makes Jane any less American than anyone else? Surely, we do not define true American patriotism simply by pieces of paper. After all, where were the documents of the colonizers of this land? Did George Washington ever have to prove he was an American citizen through mere paperwork?

On top of our already ridiculous and archaically colonial views on citizenship, the ending of DACA hurts those who had/have no control over their legal status. DACA only protects undocumented persons who entered the country when they were 16 or younger, meaning they had no say in their parents’ choice to enter the U.S. At this point, we are essentially punishing children for the choices of their guardians.

Many of the concerns surrounding dreamers have also proven to be false. Trump and his supporters fear these children may be dangerous criminals.

“I literally can’t get DACA without having an entirely clean criminal record,” stated Jane in response to allegation of dreamers’ criminality.

Additionally, DACA allows dreamers to participate and contribute to American society (the very thing we ask immigrants to do upon entering this country). Work visas allow these and other immigrants to work and pay taxes and thereby contribute to the economy, even though they are ineligible for the governmental benefits of those taxes.

To put it plainly, there is no reason to allow DACA to end outside of racist and xenophobic hatred towards immigrants. After all, dreamers are young people who came to this country without their consent as children and have no criminal record. As Jane said, “Trump shouldn’t be holding my life and the lives of other dreamers hostage for his racist monument that he calls a wall.” And hopefully when Congress takes up the issue of immigration in the next few weeks, they may realize this too.