Let’s up­hold the dream for DACA fam­i­lies

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION - Bar­bara Clarke, New­town Town­ship

To the Times: The ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee of In­di­vis­i­ble Main Line South, a group of New­town Square, Marple, Edg­mont and Radnor res­i­dents fo­cused on en­gag­ing Pa. District 7 Mem­bers of Congress, has been busy mak­ing calls telling our rep­re­sen­ta­tives that we want them to save DACA, De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals. We have also protested at ral­lies in our fight to save DACA. This pro­gram pro­tects un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants brought to the United States as chil­dren from de­por­ta­tion and lets them work legally in this coun­try.

Pres­i­dent Trump has tem­po­rar­ily placed the fates of roughly 800,000 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants brought to the United States as chil­dren in the hands of Congress. For months, the ad­min­is­tra­tion pub­licly weighed DACA’s fate – every time they de­clared that the pro­gram was still in ef­fect, a DHS spokesper­son has­tened to clar­ify that they meant “for now.” That “for now” is over.

The pro­gram is wind­ing down. Im­mi­grants who would have qual­i­fied for the pro­gram had they turned 15 in Au­gust, but in­stead turn 15 in Oc­to­ber, will be locked out; im­mi­grants whose DACA pro­tec­tions are set to ex­pire on March 4 had only un­til Oct. 5 to col­lect their pa­per­work (and $495) and ap­ply for one last re­newal.

For im­mi­grants whose DACA pro­tec­tions are set to last through the next six months, who, in the­ory, aren’t sup­posed to be wor­ried, there’s a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween know­ing when their work per­mits will ex­pire and be­ing able to quiet their minds un­til then. Pres­i­dent Trump says the “Dream­ers” should be turn­ing their hopes to Congress, but his White House’s talk­ing points urge them to start mak­ing plans to leave the coun­try when their work per­mits ex­pire.

Over the next two years, un­less Congress finds a so­lu­tion, DACA hold­ers will lose their work per­mits and driver’s li­censes. Many are sole providers for their fam­i­lies; they fear their par­ents will be de­ported or they, too, will be sent back to a coun­try they do not know.

Should Congress act, the pres­i­dent will have to choose whether to sign on to a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion grant­ing the “dream­ers” le­gal sta­tus or to let DACA ex­pire. This would im­pede the abil­ity of ben­e­fi­cia­ries to find work and leave them vul­ner­a­ble to de­por­ta­tion. House Repub­li­can lead­ers are pri­vately hop­ing to push the im­mi­gra­tion bat­tle un­til at least this win­ter. They, like the White House, want a down pay­ment on Trump’s bor­der wall with Mex­ico in ex­change for cod­i­fy­ing DACA. House Democrats won’t say whether they’d ac­cept tougher im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tions in or­der to save the pro­gram.

Some DACA re­cip­i­ents are in­cred­i­bly wor­ried about get­ting rounded up when their pro­tec­tions ex­pire. Some have even voiced a fear that they’ll be put in camps like the con­cen­tra­tion camps in which Ja­panese Amer­i­cans were put dur­ing World War II. DACA re­cip­i­ents are pan­ick­ing yet they feel the need to por­tray them­selves as brave, op­ti­mistic he­roes. The mes­sage that “there is no safe haven here” has been made very clear to unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants. This help­less­ness and lack of con­trol in an oth­er­wise highly mo­ti­vated group of young adults has led to shock, de­pres­sion and de­spair.

Even with­out mass de­por­ta­tion, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has cre­ated an en­force­ment regime that does just enough to re­mind im­mi­grants they’re vul­ner­a­ble and lets fear do the rest. It’s us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of pol­icy and mes­sag­ing to keep the threat of de­por­ta­tion hang­ing over im­mi­grants’ heads. It’s mak­ing sure they don’t get too com­fort­able here be­cause they could be taken at any minute.

Fear is hard to at­tack be­cause it’s hard to see. Those Amer­i­cans who don’t know any im­mi­grants may not no­tice this fear. The fact that any­one liv­ing in the U.S. with­out pa­pers could be caught by U. S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­tom En­force­ment (ICE) at any time is only part of the pol­i­tics of fear. The other part is mak­ing it seem that any­one caught by ICE is in­evitably go­ing to get de­ported. There’s noth­ing they or their lawyers can do to stop it. When a com­mu­nity is this taut with fear, any news or sign or ru­mor at­tracts dis­pro­por­tion­ate at­ten­tion. Any pol­icy change or any sign that a pol­icy change is be­ing con­sid­ered is of­ten seen as a sig­nal that mass de­por­ta­tion is com­ing or that it’s al­ready here.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Yurexi Quinones, 24, of Manas­sas, Va., a col­lege stu­dent who is study­ing so­cial work and a re­cip­i­ent of De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, known as DACA, ral­lies next to Ana Rice, 18, of Manas­sas, Va., far right, in sup­port of DACA, out­side of the White House in Wash­ing­ton in this file photo.

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