Let’s uphold the dream for DACA families
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.
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.