“‘My immediate thought was that I have to quit school and start working two jobs, so that if I go back to Mexico, I have my money, I have something to start with so I wouldn’t have to be living in the streets. I don’t want to live in the streets,” said Franco. “At the same time, I have faith that people will step up and be compassionate.’” (Longmeyer, 2017).
This is snippet of an interview with a student Maria Franco, within a University of Missouri-Kansas City newspaper article titled “Dreamers at UMKC face uncertain future” written by Justin Longmeyer. This interview was conducted when there was much heated controversy over the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The University of California Berkeley defines DACA on their information webpage as “a kind of administrative relief from deportation. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation”.
The future of the DACA program has been less than clear. Longmeyer states in his article that, “the Trump administration announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last week” (2017). This announcement was deafening across the country as seen within Franco’s interview, which is full of survival rhetoric, because she was mentally preparing for deportation. Longmeyer continues, “recipients of the DACA program will be vulnerable to deportation if Congress is unable to pass legislation protecting them within the six-month timeframe” (2017). My first exposure to the DACA program was within Dr. Clara Irazabal-Zurita’s Latinx studies course. I was twenty-one years old, and knew nothing of this important program. I began asking my family and friends if they knew what DACA was, and many of them gave me a blank stare. This is why I think discussing the DACA program within this reflection paper is so important. I think some people who are born within the United States live ignorantly of immigration policies because they themselves cannot relate. In my opinion within this current political climate there is no excuse to live in ignorance. Everyone should be familiar the various United States immigration policies, whether they agree or disagree with them. In this paper I will discuss the beginnings of the DACA program, the current decision over DACA, symbolism racism, and the possible solutions published within the tenth course lecture.
According to a report “The Dream Act, DACA, and Other Policies Designed to Protect Dreamers” by the Immigration Policy Center, “ the first version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in 2001” (2017). This Act was developed to serve the similar purpose of DACA, but was never passed as a law, due to this the Obama administration developed a way to still provide protection from deportation for child immigrants (Immigration Policy Center, 2017). There were strict guidelines for immigrants to apply for DACA such as the applicant had to have “entered the country prior to their sixteenth birthday, have lived continuously in the US for at least five years, have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor, are currently in school” (Wood, 2018). The report discusses the change in leadership within the Homeland Security and eventually “Elaine Duke rescinded the 2012 DACA memorandum and announced a ‘wind down’ of DACA” (Immigration Policy Center, 2017). This announcement sent shock waves through the country. According to the lecture “Impact of Immigration”, “today, total foreign-born population is roughly 40 million people [and] 27 percent are unauthorized immigrants” (Wood, 2018). Just to understand just how many individuals this action could be affecting. Although, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service release the most current decision on DACA is, “due to federal court orders, USCIS has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA. USCIS is not accepting requests from individuals who have never before been granted deferred action under DACA”. For now, past recipients can reapply.
I have experience first hand that a common misconception surrounding DACA recipients is that it is primarily for Latinx immigrants. This of course is not true. As the lecture states, “political rhetoric has made the term ‘immigrant’ virtually synonymous with the term ‘criminal’” (Wood, 2018). I believe the group that is most often protrayed as a criminal with the news media would be the Latinx immigrant population. Therefore, many United States residents attribute the immigrantion discusion to this group. This is extremely problamatic, because now the Latinx population is becoming stigmatized. Meaning if a person is speaking Spanish in public, there is a good chance someone is assuming they are an undocumented individual, and who is a “danger” to society. Due to the current administration’s rhetoric surrounding these policies, and the hyperfocus on immigration policies Latinx groups are being targeted by government agencies to investigate their citizenship status. According to the article “Illegality: A Contemporary Portrait of Immigration” by Roberto G. Gonzales and Steven Raphael “cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement under 287(g) agreements and Secure Communities had created an immigration dragnet, snaring immigrants for improper lane changes and countless other noncriminal offenses” (2). This practice is like that of “Arizona’s SB 1070, which allowed officers to: make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped Detain or arrest if there is reasonable suspicion that a person is in the country illegally” (Wood, 2018). Practices such as these promote discrimatory and hateful rhetoric specifically torwards Latinx groups. As brought up in the lecture an important question is “why do Americans respond more harshly to Latino immigrants than European immigrants?” (Wood, 2018). I think these practices and rhetoric surrounding them are some of the reasons this attitude exsists within the United States.
I believe the majority of undocumented immigrants are just trying to escape from adversities with their native countries, and “seeking the American Dream of prosperity, security, and success” (Wood, 2018). An article written by Katharine M. Donato and Samantha L. Perez discuss “the factors that push children to migrate” (117). Some of their findings were that, “three stand out: violence, family separation and reunification, and limited economic opportunity. Among these, drug- related and organized crime- style violence has been well documented” (Donato and Perez, 117). This is important aspect to consider for DACA recipiants, if they are deported to their native country they could be coming back to a place of violence and poor living conitions. Especially if they came to the United States when they were young. As Franco states within her interview, “‘if I am ever deported and go back to my country, I’m going to be discriminated against because I don’t know how to speak Spanish as fluently as everyone in Mexico. I was raised in this culture and I’ve been assimilated’” (Longmeyer, 2017).
The lecture that referrs to the work of Cyndy Caravelis, PhD and Matthew Robinson, PhD propose some key solutions to the problems within the immigration system. One the stood out to me was, “increase representative nature of law making—today the lawmaking process is biased in favor of some people and interests and against others. This must change if we hope to achieve socially just criminal justice agencies” ( Caravelis, et al., 2015). This is an important point, that many aspects of the U.S. governement are swayed by the influence of powerful and wealthy groups. Therefore, other groups that are painted as “criminals” are not as likely to have an equal chance at representation. However, the impact of social movement should not be ignored. Across the nation groups have been lobbying to change the direction of the DACA program, to ensrue its exsistance or creation of a new remedy. Even within the UMKC campus many groups are participating in the movement. I believe the effort of this group helped the passing of the decion to allow DACA recipiantants to renew their stauts.
I believe that the United States has a long journey ahead within immigration polices, but I have hope that people will continue to lobby for fair treatment of immigrant groups. Although, I do not envy those in power that are making these decisions. It would be a difficult job to find policies that are fair and also best for the country. I believe there has to be a solution that can do both, becasue the United States was founded by immigrant groups and is now one of the most powerful countries in the world. Surely, we can do it again.
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