by Richa Patel ’20
Since September 5th, the lives of 750,000 Americans have hung in the balance. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA, has received a verdict that could be interpreted as its death sentence – the current version of the program has been repealed. Congress has six months to come up with an alternative before it is abolished completely.
DACA protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. There are many restrictions on who can become Dreamers, as these young immigrants are called. They must have arrived before the age of sixteen, and could not have been over the age of thirty in 2012. The recipient must also have a clean criminal background and be in school, have recently graduated, or have been honorably discharged from the military. Some believe the DACA program offers a path to citizenship. However, the most it does is provide two-year permits for work and study.
If Congress does not come up with a solution within the six months given, then DACA recipients will lose their work permits and driver’s licenses over the next two years. Many cannot afford the process to renew their paperwork on such a short notice. But human compassion does not falter in the face of adversity. Forty organizations in New York are providing free legal services to Dreamers. Even more organizations are mobilizing nationally.
As a whole, Dreamers are finding themselves helpless. Social workers interviewed by The New York Times have reported saddening news. Dreamers feel like their world is spinning out of control.
Lizette Rincon, a Dreamer interviewed by The New York Times, said, “I don’t remember the images [of crossing the border], but the feeling of exhaustion is embedded in me. Right now, I feel like I’m a 5-year-old again, a lost child who needs someone to provide her with what she needs. I depend on someone else’s decision… I’m just dangling.”
Dreamers around the country share her view. Ximena Magana, when interviewed by BBC News, talked about how “America is the only country [she’s] ever known.” Many DACA recipients feel that they have earned a place in this country, and deserve to stay.
And many people in the nation agree. A recent poll by NBC shows that two-thirds of the nation are in favor of DACA recipients staying in the country. Even Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, urged the president not to scrap the program. “These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home,” he said in a radio interview referenced in The Washington Post. The same article mentions other Republicans and Democrats have spoken out about their support of DACA as well.
Already, plans are being put into action, with people pushing on either side of the debate, mainly revolving around the nation’s immigration policy. But the answer of what to do with DACA is unclear. Either way, the suspension of the program is sure to have long-lasting effects on the United States and its people.