‘To bet­ter serve my fel­low Vir­gini­ans’

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - OP / ED - Glo­ria Oduy­oye is a stu­dent at Wil­liam & Mary Law School and a Dreamer who was granted De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA) sta­tus by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in 2012. She may be con­tacted at gooduy­oye@email.wm.edu.

In Jan­uary 2018, I will grad­u­ate from Wil­liam & Mary Law School, hav­ing ben­e­fited from an op­por­tu­nity that will en­able me to bet­ter serve my fel­low Vir­gini­ans. How­ever, my abil­ity to serve will be sig­nif­i­cantly im­paired un­less Congress passes a bill like the DREAM Act.

I am 25, an un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant, and a Dreamer. I was born in Eng­land and am the daugh­ter of Nige­rian im­mi­grants. In late 2012, I was granted De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA) sta­tus by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. DACA con­fers le­gal pres­ence on young un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who en­tered the coun­try as mi­nors. My fam­ily ar­rived in this coun­try legally on a visa when I was 1 year old. We fell out of sta­tus when my fa­ther suc­cumbed to a de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion that af­fects the eye­sight. Be­cause of his health, he was un­able to main­tain his em­ploy­ment and, con­se­quently, my fam­ily’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

We’ve tried for years to re­gain our sta­tus but have been un­suc­cess­ful due to bad lawyer­ing. It’s been an ex­pen­sive and emo­tion­ally drain­ing jour­ney. I didn’t learn I was un­doc­u­mented un­til I was a ju­nior in col­lege, how­ever. My par­ents did ev­ery­thing they could to shield me from the weight of liv­ing as an un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant.

I also never be­lieved I was any­thing but le­gal be­cause I’d heard sound bites about the “ne­far­i­ous il­le­gal” and re­ally strug­gled to rec­on­cile the ac­tual life I was liv­ing — stel­lar stu­dent and ath­lete, cam­pus leader and com­mu­nity ser­vice vol­un­teer, and friend and neigh­bor — with what I was hear­ing on the news. But de­spite all of this, I ded­i­cated my­self to my higher ed­u­ca­tion, which has been fully funded by merit-based schol­ar­ships, pri­vate fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, and out-of-pocket cov­er­age. My fa­ther, a med­i­cal doc­tor who has healed Amer­i­cans, and my mother, a teacher who has ed­u­cated Amer­i­cans, in­stilled in me the value of a good ed­u­ca­tion. As a re­sult, I grad­u­ated with hon­ors from Wes­leyan Col­lege. Now I’m in my fi­nal se­mes­ter at Wil­liam & Mary Law School and will be­come the first DACA re­cip­i­ent to grad­u­ate law school in Vir­ginia — and one of four to do so in the na­tion.

DACA ac­knowl­edges that be­cause im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment re­sources are lim­ited, cur­rent de­por­ta­tion reg­u­la­tions should pri­or­i­tize vi­o­lent crim­i­nals, not young peo­ple with good be­hav­ior and moral char­ac­ter, who are in school or the armed forces, and are oth­er­wise as­sets to the Amer­i­can econ­omy and so­ci­ety. This type of pros­e­cu­to­rial dis­cre­tion is within the scope of the pow­ers con­sti­tu­tion­ally enu­mer­ated to the ex­ec­u­tive, and all le­gal chal­lenges to the orig­i­nal pro­gram have failed. To be clear, ev­ery DACA re­cip­i­ent is still sub­ject to de­por­ta­tion — DACA just lessens this like­li­hood — be­cause it was never meant to be a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion. DACA was an op­por­tu­nity for Dream­ers like me to show just how valu­able we are to Amer­ica.

I re­cently trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., with dozens of Dream­ers to ad­vo­cate for a per­ma­nent leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion that would give us and our nearly 800,000 fel­low Dream­ers the chance to stay. Sev­eral dif­fer­ent op­tions have been in­tro­duced, in­clud­ing the bi­par­ti­san DREAM Act as well as the repub­li­can-led ‘SUC­CEED’ and ‘Rec­og­niz­ing Amer­ica’s Chil­dren’ (RAC) acts. All three bills re­quire that Dream­ers pass a se­ries of rig­or­ous back­ground checks and com­mit to work­ing, study­ing, or serv­ing in the U.S. mil­i­tary.

Vir­ginia’s nearly 13,500 Dream­ers need our rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — in­clud­ing Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Reps. Tom Gar­rett, Scott Tay­lor, and Mor­gan Grif­fith — to sup­port leg­is­la­tion like the DREAM Act. When they do, Vir­ginia Dream­ers will be able to con­tinue pay­ing about $35 mil­lion in state taxes.

And I’ll be able to walk across the grad­u­a­tion stage con­fi­dent I may con­tinue giv­ing back to Amer­ica, my coun­try and home.

DACA ac­knowl­edges that be­cause im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment re­sources are lim­ited, cur­rent de­por­ta­tion reg­u­la­tions should pri­or­i­tize vi­o­lent crim­i­nals, not young peo­ple with good be­hav­ior and moral char­ac­ter...

Glo­ria O. Oduy­oye

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