Maybe it’s because I used to be a high-school foreign language teacher, and so have a fondness for attempting to open closed minds, especially on the subject of those who speak a native tongue other than English; maybe it’s because I have an over-developed sense of fairness; maybe I’m just tired of arguing with people who continue to confuse the DACA program (“Dreamers”) with their fears of a horde of illegal immigrants taking advantage of our government systems so they can bring an endless wave of rape, destruction, pillaging, and anarchy to our poor, hapless country–whatever the reason, when I can’t stop thinking about it, the only thing I can do is write about it.
So here we go: my thoughts on DACA and Dreamers and why it was worth shutting down the government to protect them. [editorial comments liberally sprinkled throughout, helpfully denoted by brackets]:
To be eligible to apply for DACA:
- Younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012
- Came to the U.S. before 16th birthday
- Continuously resided in U.S. from June 15, 2007 to present
- Physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2007 and on the date of request
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2015
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States [Huh…so students and vets? Interesting]
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. [So no felons…guess that means you can’t be a rapist or a drug dealer.]
- Must be 15 or older to request DACA.
If eligible per above, in order to apply, must:
- Provide supporting documentation—
|Proof of identity||
|Proof you came to U.S. before your 16th birthday||
|Proof of immigration status||
|Proof of presence in U.S. on June 15, 2012||
|Proof you continuously resided in U.S. since June 15, 2007|
|Proof of your student status at the time of requesting DACA||
|Proof you are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the U.S.||
[Are you tired yet? I know I am, and that’s only step one, documentation.]
- Complete and submit multiple hefty and complicated forms, too lengthy to list here, but if you want to see them, here are the links: https://www.uscis.gov/i-821d; https://www.uscis.gov/i-765; https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-765ws.pdf).
- Pay a $495 application fee. [Ouch.]
- May only travel outside of the U.S. under heavy restrictions: “Certain travel outside the United States may affect the continuous residence guideline. Traveling outside the U.S. before Aug. 15, 2012, will not interrupt your continuous residence if the travel was brief, casual, and innocent. If you travel outside the United States after Aug. 15, 2012, and before we decide your request for DACA, you will not be considered for DACA.” [Bold above is mine: Who determines when travel is considered “brief, casual and innocent?” Seems sort of subjective, if you ask me. But maybe they mean Canada???]
5. Must complete a U.S.-certified “biometrics” exam: “The technical definition of ‘biometrics’ means that a person’s unique physical and other traits are detected and recorded as a means of confirming identity. In simple terms, USCIS will obtain your photograph, fingerprints and have you sign your name. This process confirms your identity so that USCIS provides benefits to the correct person and facilitates the necessary criminal background check. In rare circumstance, USCIS may request DNA testing for immigration cases where applicants are either from developing countries and do not have birth certificates, or when there are suspicious discrepancies within the case.” [https://citizenpath.com/uscis-biometrics-appointment/]
- Must pass a background check.
- Repeat the above steps every two years, including paying the $495 fee, which is the same to renew as to apply for the first time [forever].
[After completing this complex, onerous, and lengthy process, which can take up to 150 days or more to provide a confirmation or rejection, after all this, you might still be rejected (some 70,000 folks have been to date).]
For those lucky Dreamers who were accepted, however, here are some Fun Facts:
- About half of Dreamers are under the age of 21; the oldest would be in their late thirties.
- DACA recipients have paid about $2 billion in state and local taxes, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates, since 2012.
- But even though they’re paying taxes, just like a “real citizen,” there are still things you can’t get under DACA: “Generally, non-citizens with Deferred Action are not [‘qualified’ immigrants] and so are not eligible for full-scope Medicaid and CHIP. [They also can’t receive food stamps, but who’s counting.] Additionally, those granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are also not eligible for affordable health insurance options that are available to other non-citizens who have Deferred Action. Under the policy, DACA grantees are not eligible to purchase health insurance in a Marketplace, even at full cost, and they are not eligible for federal tax credits to make private health insurance in the Marketplace affordable. They are not eligible for the CHIPRA sec. 214 state option to cover lawfully residing children and/or pregnant women.” [But hey, at least they’re exempt from the health insurance requirement mandate, so bonus!] (https://ccf.georgetown.edu/2014/04/11/for-daca-youth-health-insurance-is-only-a-dream/) [Wait, so they’re not getting free health care, not even for pregnant moms? That sucks.]
- DACA college students are not eligible for federal financial aid. [No financial aid for school, either?]
- And yet, in spite of all that, according to the National Immigration Law Center, 75% of DACA recipients are currently employed [i.e., paying taxes], and not just in manual jobs, either—
- According to the Migration Policy Institute, DACA beneficiaries also tend to be employed in higher-skilled jobs than workers who are in the country illegally. “While the latter [“illegal aliens”] were heavily represented in jobs that involve manual work — such as construction and extraction, and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance — DACA-eligible workers were most commonly found in white-collar occupations that are usually done indoors in formal business settings.” [Migration Policy Institute; https://www.npr.org/2017/09/06/548882071/fact-check-are-daca-recipients-stealing-jobs-away-from-other-americans].
- Business leaders support Dreamers: https://www.businessleadersdreamletter.com/; the U.S. economy stands to lose billions of dollars if DACA is terminated, and they know it.
- Faith groups support Dreamers: https://thinkprogress.org/faith-groups-overwhelmingly-condemn-trumps-decision-to-phase-out-daca-4d3db0f3dd50/.
- 1 in 4 Dreamers are parents themselves; those children would lose one, or potentially both parents, if DACA is terminated.
So to recap: Dreamers were brought here as children, through no fault of their own, and lived as illegal aliens, albeit minors, in this country until whatever age they were on June 25, 2012, it is true. But when the U.S. government formally acknowledged that punishing the child for the sins of the parent (like charging a 7-year-old child for being in the back seat of the getaway car when his dad robbed the local bank) was overly harsh and offered these children a way to LEGALLY remain in the United States to work and to study, Dreamers took a chance. They jumped through hoop after onerous hoop, completing background checks and biometrics, paying exorbitant application fees, and wading through massive amounts of complicated paperwork.
These Dreamers did everything our government asked them to do to make good on the sins of their parents. Because of their courage in coming out of the shadows, the vast majority of them have gone on to become contributing members of our society. They are doctors, students, members of our military, priests, parents, taxpayers. These are not the ones who are “bringing drugs…bringing rapists…or bringing crime.” [Trump, 2016]. In fact, they are about as far from that as a person can possibly be.
You say you only have a problem with the “bad” kind of immigrants, the kind that bring crime and drugs and rape, the kind that doesn’t pay taxes; the kind that cheats the system, that mooches off the welfare handouts paid for by the good “legal” citizens of this fine country of ours.
Well, if you don’t have a problem with the “good” kind of immigrants (whatever the hell you think that means), then DACA recipients should not give you any qualms whatsoever. They are, in fact, shining examples of the faith, optimism, integrity, courage, hard work, and dedication that have made our country what it is today. People like this built our country. These young folks have proven, simply by undergoing the rigorous DACA application process, which is insanely complex, that they are hard-working, industrious people of honor and decency, willing to do whatever it takes to stay here and be part of the American dream in the only legal capacity available to them. They’ve completed every single task we asked of them, so that they could, in direct opposition to the illegal paths their parents, for whatever reason, chose to take, do the right thing for us and for our country; in return, we must do the right thing for them.
Because the really scary part of this whole debate, the part that makes people like me willing to fight so hard on their behalf, even going so far as to shut down the government to protect them, if necessary, is this: Precisely because Dreamers cooperated so fully and enthusiastically, providing every scrap of information and proof we asked of them, not only does ICE know their names, addresses, phone numbers, and places of business, they also have their fingerprints, and maybe even their DNA—making it laughably easy to track them down if DACA is overturned and they are slated for deportation, many back to countries (thanks to the helpful travel restrictions imposed in the eligibility requirements noted above) they may never even have visited. The stakes for these young people and their families could not possibly be any higher. [Diabolically prescient of our government, I must say. Or maybe just diabolical.]
You want to fight illegal immigrants, the “drug dealers, rapists, and criminals” who are coming here to steal and rape and pillage, I’m right there with you. NO ONE SUPPORTS ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.
But these, the DACA kids, the Dreamers, are not the immigrants you’re looking for. We owe it to them to protect them.