They are our students. They are our rising leaders.They are our doctors, our teachers, our neighbors and our friends. They are the strings which hold many parts of our lives together. They are “dreamers.”
Deportation has become a real possibility for “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who have come to the U.S. at a young age, or recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), September 14. DACA allows young immigrants to apply for work authorization and residency permits and remain in the country for a period of two years while their status is considered; the program currently has over 800,000 participants. These undocumented immigrants play an essential role in our local communities and national economies and therefore should not be denied the right to live a productive and secure life in the United States.
DACA has its grassroots in the Obama administration. On June 15, 2012, President Obama formally introduced DACA without the consent of Congress.
As one of the world’s greatest social and economic institutions, the United States should continue to offer immigrants DACA membership and renewals. Our country and its constitution offer religious, political, economic and social freedoms that many others are denied in their country. Therefore, it is our responsibility to offer these opportunities to immigrants, even if they are illegal. It’s not like we don’t have the resources to do so. So why is there negative stigma around DACA recipients?
Undocumented immigrants are most often criticized for entering the country without proper documentation. In addition, they are often stereotyped as criminals. Others criticize them for not paying taxes, but DACA recipients are required to or they will suffer the same penalties as any ordinary American. But, the majority of immigrants are not here to cause harm.
In addition, the many communities seen today are built on both legal and undocumented immigrant labor. According to a 2016 survey, 21 percent of respondents work in health and educational settings, 11 percent work in non-profit industries, 9 percent work in wholesale or retail chains and 8 percent work in professional or business services (americanprogress.org). Especially here in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, migrant farm workers play a significant role in food production. These workers and their families often come to the United States to sustain themselves. In their desperation for work, these groups have been taken advantage of by their employers, who impose low wages, poor housing, harsh working conditions. Like many American citizens, those under DACA work just as hard, but often do not receive the same citizenship opportunity.
Immigrants involved in DACA also promote economic growth. The University of San Diego, the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for American Progress, reported in 2017 that 42 percent of recipients received wage increases, and 60 percent reported they felt financially independent. Likewise, 54 percent purchased their first car and 12 percent their first home. This increases the amount of money in circulation and boosts the economy. Their role in the community help immigrants feel motivated to gain a sense of inclusiveness and apply for state identification, acquire licenses and participate in elections. In addition, DACA recipients are more willing to testify as witnesses in crimes to speed up the judicial process.
Congress has not provided DACA recipients an official path to citizenship. But it isn’t morally right to kick people who have worked so hard to buy a house and build successful businesses out of country simply because they came here illegally. Programs such as DACA help immigrants boost the economy, help solve and reduce crime and contribute to democracy. Immigrants are fundamental members of our society and their lack of citizenship does not justify their removal.
By Phillip Leung, Production lead
Photo by Anna Yu