Current Events

DACA: the facts, the views, the myths

According to a report published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in September, 2017, there are nearly 700,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including 5,900 in Massachusetts. Upon entry into the program, young undocumented immigrants receive a work authorization permit, a social security card, and protection from any deportation proceedings. However, on September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he would be taking the necessary steps to terminate the DACA program by March 5, 2018. The termination of DACA has since been challenged by federal courts and not decided on within Congress, ultimately leaving the future of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients in doubt.

Vanguard readers might be wondering: Who exactly is eligible for DACA? When did it begin? And what can we do to help those affected by its repeal?

In these pages, Latinx students explain how they view DACA and how it has impacted their communities; Head of School Rebecca Upham identifies the administration’s stance on undocumented students; and Rich Brown, an immigration activist who has visited the school, debunks myths about undocumented immigrants;

 

 

US students speak on DACA

How informed are you about DACA? 

I’ve been following the news about DACA since 2012, when it was created. I try to read any news articles that I find about it. Recently, I read that the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request to give him the power to bypass Congress and cancel the DACA program, so there’s actually a momentary victory for Dreamers right now. 

How has immigration law impacted you? 

I’m an immigrant myself; I came to the U.S. in 2008 with my parents from Colombia because my mom wanted to get a doctorate degree from UMass Lowell. We came here with documents, and we were privileged enough to be able to do that, but we know there are a lot of people in Central American countries and South American countries who don’t have that privilege. It’s an issue that’s really close to me, and I want to try to help other immigrants in our country. As I get older, I’m more capable of doing that, and it’s definitely something I’m interested in pursuing.

Have you done anything to help “Dreamers”?

This summer I’ll be going to Dilley, Texas, to volunteer in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project at the largest family detention center in the U.S. It’s a place for immigrant families to connect with lawyers and get legal help. Three BB&N students are going to the center this April, and I’ll be going this summer to volunteer. I’ll mostly be helping out in any way I can, translating documents and talking to the immigrants.

 

What do you think should be done?

There’s a whole imbalance where Trump wants to pass certain aspects of DACA but only if Congress approves increasing money for border security, including the wall, which I just feel is unfair—so many people’s lives are in danger, and he still wants that wall so badly. Just give these people a path to citizenship. As long as they have followed the law, they deserve to be citizens.

What do you think about Congress’ approach?

What Congress has been doing hasn’t really worked. Dreamers don’t really have a place to go back to because most of them have lived here their whole lives. I read about a man in Detroit who had lived in the U.S. for 30 years—basically his whole life, and he had a family, a job—and he had to go back to a country he barely knew because of a problem with his DACA qualifications. This system obviously isn’t working and needs to be fixed; there needs to be a path to citizenship for these people. 

How can students, parents, and faculty at our school get involved? 

There are simple ways to get involved, such as calling your representative in Congress, attending rallies or protests to show support, and volunteering at local organizations that help immigrants. Everybody should get involved somehow. Everyone at the school, unless you’re Native American, is an immigrant—it goes back to your grandparents and great-grandparents. You can’t really say that because you were born in the U.S. or your parents were born in the U.S., immigration doesn’t concern you. 

What would you want the average person to know about this issue?

Most of these people don’t have a home in the Central American and South American countries where they came from. Their whole lives are in the U.S. As an immigrant myself, I know how tough it is to leave your family and move to a new country, and that’s what we would be forcing by making these people go back. These people belong here, just like all of us.

 

Mila Camargo-Cortes ’18

How informed are you about issue? 

Although I am no expert on DACA, I am interested in the topic, and most of my information comes from reading the news. Being a Latina means that people often approach me to discuss immigration issues. I’m a U.S. citizen, but I’m interested in reading about different views on immigration. 

 

How has immigration law impacted you?

Potential DACA reform has not impacted me personally, but I have immigrant friends living in East Boston and surrounding neighborhoods, like Chelsea and Revere, so I hear about their concerns for themselves and their families. 

Have you done anything to help “Dreamers”?

The most important thing to do right now to help is to voice our support for the program. Attending rallies, signing petitions, and supporting candidates who have clear stances on the issue are the primary ways we can get our voices heard and fight for a more humane government and society.

What do you think should be done?

Passing the Recognizing America’s Children Act, which was sponsored by Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, is a potential solution. The act has a lot of the same protections for Dreamers in place as DACA and provides a path to citizenship if applicants meet certain requirements. The Dreamers would have to go to college, serve in the military, or get work authorization to become citizens, and the whole process would take 10 years, but it is a solution. 

What do you think about Congress’s approach?

Right now it seems as though Congress is very partisan and is not trying to solve the problem. I think it is up to advocates to promote fair policies.

What would you want the average person to know about this issue?

Dreamers come to the U.S. before turning 16, so many of them have zero recollection of their home country. Some don’t even speak the native language and have zero contact with relatives there. Without the DACA program, they would be sent back to countries that are foreign to them. Also, most Dreamers have jobs, and the Center for American Progress estimated that the U.S. would lose about $460 billion in GDP over the next 10 years without DACA. Looking purely at the numbers, I think it’s clear how much this program contributes. Our country is only as great as the people in it, and we need to fight for the Dreamers.

 

DACA TIMELINE

April 2001

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is introduced. The bill paves a path to citizenship for undocumented teenagers and young adults through service in the military or graduation from a university. It never gets to a vote.

2010 

President Obama reintroduces the DREAM Act, which passes in the House of Representatives but fails to get enough votes in the Senate.

2012 

President Obama signs the executive order Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which postpones deportation for undocumented minors in the U.S. for two years and allows them to obtain a work permit.

People were eligible for DACA if they came to the U.S. while under the age of 16, had lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, had not been convicted of a felony or three or more misdemeanors, had no lawful status on June 15, 2012, and were either currently in school, graduated from high school, or in possesion of a general education development (GED) certification.

2014

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott among other state judges files a lawsuit against DACA on the grounds of its unconstitutionality as an executive order, undermining Congress’ power to write laws. Advocates for DACA argues that President Obama is well within his rights to temporarily defer deportation for specific people and grant renewable two-year work permits. The order stands.

January 2017

President Trump takes office and signs an executive order that strips 800,000 people in the DACA program of their previously guaranteed federal privacy protection. The order makes DACA recipients’ information available to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, causing many to speculate President Trump is planning to rescind DACA soon.

June 2017

Top Republicans from 10 states write a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening legal action against the Trump administration if the DACA program is not ended soon. The letter argues DACA is an unconstitutional use of presidential power.

September 2017

President Trump rescinds DACA, calling into question the future of over 800,000 Dreamers, many of whom are enrolled in school or working. The president calls on Congress to pass a replacement bill before March 5, 2018, the expiration date on DACA.

December 2017

The White House presents Congress with a series of immigration priorities that would have to be fulfilled in the government-spending bill for the next year before President Trump supports legislation legalizing Dreamers. Democrats objects to the immigration demands, and, unable to agree, Democrats and Republicans pass a series of stopgap spending measures to fund the government without addressing DACA legislation.

January 2018

The U.S. government shuts down from January 20 to 22 because Congress fails to pass a spending bill over disputes on immigration policy. Democrats push to include a plan for Dreamers in the budget while Republicans prolong debate on the issue. Congress eventually passes another temporary, three-week spending bill lasting until February 8 on the promise that Republican leadership will discuss a deal to protect the Dreamers.

February 2018

The government shuts down briefly for a few hours on February 9, but Democrats and Republicans are able to make a deal funding the government through March 23. However, the bill does not include a solution for DACA and only passes after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls on House Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule a vote for the DACA and an immigration reform bill before the March 5 deadline.

March 5, 2018

The Supreme Court passes a brief ruling temporarily extending the DACA program, after the March 5 deadline passes without any consensus about a replacement plan in Congress. While no one person may apply for new DACA membership at this time, existing members may continue to apply for renewals, but their long-term future in the U.S. remains uncertain. Currently, Congress is still debating immigration policy, and the fate of 800,000 Dreamers hangs in the balance.

 

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