No love for DREAMERs this Valentine’s Day

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), established in 2012 by Obama, officially ends on March 6, 2018 after Trump rescinded the program on Sept. 5, 2017 and gave Congress six months to fix the problem. DACA originated as an attempt to provide guidance for government legislation known as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), a bipartisan effort introduced in the Senate by Orrin Hatch and Richard Durbin in 2010. The DREAM Act represented efforts by the government to address immigration reform by providing a path to citizenship for young immigrants who met certain criteria. The Act was never officially passed into law, due to 15-year long feuds among House and Senate leaders who refused to agree on specifics of the bill.

DACA was an American immigration policy that allowed those who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. As of 2017, about 760,000 individuals were enrolled in the program. To be eligible for DACA provisions, immigrants came to the U.S. before 2007, were 15 years old or younger when they arrived, and were younger than 31 when DACA was created. They were required to be enrolled in high school or have a high school diploma or equivalent. Having a criminal record was an immediate disqualification from the program.

Prior to DACA, children who were brought into the United States by relatives seeking a better life for themselves were living in the shadows, unable to achieve the American dream. Many of the children did not even know they were undocumented until they became teenagers and tried to obtain drivers’ licenses, get after-school jobs, or apply to college. At that point, they faced the reality that they really did not belong anywhere. Changes to immigration laws since the 1990s led to more children being settled into the United States with no connection to their home countries. These children literally had no other home than America, but they were not considered citizens.

Every American agrees that immigration reform is a critical issue. The DREAM Act offers a first step in achieving success in immigration that meets the requirements of most. More than 70 percent of Americans believe that DREAMERs should be allowed an opportunity to become legal citizens. DACA recipients can be considered the “cream of the crop” of American immigrants: they are educated, they speak English, they have jobs, and they have not committed crimes. Some of them have enlisted in the military and served by fighting for the freedoms that American citizens enjoy. They do not steal jobs from Americans; they contribute to job growth and a more vibrant economy. They add to the economy by buying cars, paying rent or buying houses, and paying taxes. They have motivation to be upstanding members of American society. They love America and want to make it a better place for all. They have also placed a great deal of trust in the government by registering for the program. They are now at the top of the list for deportation because they are registered but undocumented.

The arguments against DACA recipients are few but extreme: they are illegal...they steal jobs from real Americans…they get handouts from the government. Additionally, their parents should not be rewarded for migrating to the U.S. illegally. They should have done what is necessary to become legal citizens. A sweep of Obama’s pen allowed them to stay illegally. Yet, vilifying all immigrants based on political rhetoric has deepened the chasm of moral action in this country. In the words of Pope Francis, “those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace, are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia…” which “demeans the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God.” These people are reduced to being undesirable in the eyes of many Americans who believe they should just get out of this country and go back where they came from. There is no love for DREAMERs in this current American mindset. DREAMERs are looked upon as criminals and freeloaders, even though that is not true at all. They love America, and want to make the country a better place.

Putting rhetoric aside, DACA recipients represent the best option for progress toward immigration reform. Immigration created America. If current immigration laws existed prior to the 20th century, almost no one would be allowed to enter this country legally. These modern immigrants have had the cards stacked against them all their lives. They have no country, no true home and no real citizenship. They have faced all the hardships of life with additional obstacles to overcome. They represent the rich history of the foundation of this diverse nation. It is time to make a moral judgment and realize that DREAMERs are people who have lived in this country most of their lives and they deserve the chance to become legal citizens. DREAMERs should have the opportunity that the founders of the U.S. Constitution envisioned: the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

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