Since the Obama administration began the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, approximately 800,000 people have been approved for its benefits, according to the latest government figures. These 800,000 people are sometimes referred to as Dreamers because of the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which would provide permanent protections to undocumented persons.
However, the implementation of DACA was controversial because it was not passed through Congress, but via Executive Order. To be eligible for DACA, applicants had to have arrived in the United States before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007.
They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012. They also must be attending school, have a high school diploma or be a military veteran, and have a mostly clean criminal record.
Mexico is by far the biggest country of origin for Dreamers, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. DACA recipients are not on a path to legal residency or even citizenship. It has only made it easier for recipients to obtain driver licenses, open bank accounts or credit cards and enroll in college universities.
They even pay income taxes. Under DACA, Dreamers were able to apply to defer deportation and legally reside in the US for two years. After that, they could apply for renewal. By March 31, 2017, 240,700 people had applied for renewal in the 2017 fiscal year and nearly 800,000 renewals had been approved over the life of the program.
In America, we do not hold children accountable for the actions of their parents. The people benefitting from DACA are not the “bad people” President Trump has continuously warned us about. In fact, our own President is the son of a European immigrant.
Dreamers are children, sisters, brothers, entire families who came to America, like so many others have, in hopes of a better life. America is where these people have been raised, where they have gone to school and where they grew up. This is their home in every sense of the word.
All of their connections and opportunities are tied to the resources they only have access to because their parents were brave enough to risk their lives to travel to a new country, looking for a better life. Times like these serve as reminders of where we have been as a country, and where we must look to for a harmonious future.
The Statue of Liberty reads: “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
To end funding for DACA recipients is to fundamentally deny the core of American values which is prosperity for those who are willing to work for it. If anyone is willing to work for their right to stay in this country, it’s Dreamers. According to CNN, 5 percent have started their own business and 16 percent bought their first home.
We at The Pacific Index encourage students, faculty, and staff to speak up for the rights of DACA recipients. This is their home as much as it is ours.