“The Trump administration on Tuesday [September 5th, 2017] formally announced the end of DACA — a program that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation.
The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and rescinded the Obama administration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
Waking up to this news I was immediately conflicted. As an immigrant to this country I have always felt a particular sensitivity to issues involving immigration – issues that have been under strenuous scrutiny and tension since the beginning of Trump’s campaign for president.
My parents arrived in the United States in 2000, bringing with them me and my sister, 2 years old and 6 months old at the time. My brother would be born not long after, in July of 2001. My parents arrived, feeling proud of being able to give their children opportunities that we would not have had in Brazil and proud of being able to give their family American citizenship. My parents arrived with all the hopes and dreams that new parents carry with them – the desire to give their children more than what they had been given, and the expectation that their children would do with these opportunities more than they had been able to do. However, and probably most importantly, my parents arrived in the United States legally.
I am not sure when I realized that this was not the case for everyone who comes to the United States. I am not sure when I first found myself wondering if this was fair – why could they just bring their children here when my parents had worked so hard to bring theirs the “right” way? But I am sure that almost immediately after this thought occurred to me, the answer was already clear.
My parents had not come to this country, had not worked hard to get visas and green cards and passports, because they needed to. Their children were not going to encounter endless amounts of suffering if they stayed in their own country. Quite the contrary – their children would probably enjoy perks of an affluent lifestyle in Brazil that they would not enjoy in the United States. My family did not, even remotely, come from the same socioeconomic background as the families of those who arrived in the United States illegally.
These people knew that if they could just get their children over that border, the line that sometimes divides life and death, their children would at least have a chance. It did not matter whether they made it over too, they were simply like every other parent – putting their love for their children first.
One could argue that these people are simply lazy. Trying to make their way over the border without first going through the correct steps simply because it’s an expensive and time-consuming process. However, if their situation is so desperate that they are willing to risk their lives, risk their children’s lives, for only a chance that they might make it – isn’t it obvious that the money and time it takes to do it the “right” way are not resources they will ever have?
These people, however, had always been faceless stories to me. A tragic situation that eluded me and still, despite my greatest efforts, left room for doubt and conflict in my mind. That changed sharply when I had the privilege of being selected to participate in the LEAP conference.
During the conference, student representatives from all Bellevue high schools made their way to Olympia, WA. The annual conference promotes, motivates and inspires Latino/a students to pursue educational careers beyond high school. While at the conference, students had the unique opportunity to meet their legislators and advocate for undocumented students in the state of Washington. Students worked on letters to the Senate and House of Representatives for HB 2801: Expanding Higher Education for Certain Students. If approved by the legislature, HB 2801 would allow certain undocumented students to be eligible for the College Bound Scholarship. I was exposed to a reality that had never been my own – the reality of the American Illegal Immigrant.
I will never forget when a girl complained about her foot hurting her so much, that she didn’t know if she’d be able to get up the steps of the Washington State Capitol. I looked at her, a little annoyed, and told her she should probably just go to the doctor. She looked at me, with the look of someone who knows you’ll never really get it, and said simply – “I can’t really”. I felt my breath catch when I realized that a visit to the doctor to fix her broken foot, and the paperwork that it would require, might be the cause of her family being torn apart.
This girl, like many other children in her situation, did not speak Spanish. The Spanish she knew was equivalent to the Spanish any American high schooler knows. She did not remember Mexico. She was, in every way that matters, American. Under DACA, at least, she could go to college without the fear of being deported to a place she did not know – a country that was not hers, that spoke a language that was not hers. She would not have to be sent to the unknown, to the fears her parents had tried to deliver her from.
But now, with the repeal of DACA, she very well might. Everything she had worked for could come crashing down on her. This American girl might see her home, her friends, her life taken away from her without the chance to even protest. That can’t be the right thing to do.
So, as he sees his work being crushed and thrown out the window, former president Obama said it best: “They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages … Ultimately, this is about basic decency.”
 Kopan, Tal. “Trump Ends DACA but Gives Congress Window to Save It.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 Sept. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/09/05/politics/daca-trump-congress/index.html.