I had some pretty simple plans for this summer. I was going to take a couple of intersession Spanish courses and hang out with my boyfriend. I really wanted to take Spanish; I have been trying to learn because my boyfriend’s parents don’t speak English, and I’d love to be able to talk to them without needing him to translate. He wanted to fix up an old car, and we planned to work together on this while he helped me with my Spanish. Clearly, those plans have changed considerably since March 2020.
Like most couples, he and I have not seen each other since social distancing went into effect, but we don’t really have a choice about this. My boyfriend is a DACA recipient living in Detroit.
Like many Canadians, I did not know what this meant before I had met him. DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”. DACA recipients, commonly referred to as “Dreamers”, are people living in the U.S. that were brought into the country illegally as children. My boyfriend was brought into America at two years old to escape dangerous, life-threatening conditions in Mexico.
There are many requirements and restrictions that come with being a part of this program. Every two years, Dreamers must attend an interview with an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officer in which they must provide proof of employment and have their fingerprints and photo taken.
Yes, that’s correct. America treats immigrants fleeing war zones the same way they treat criminals. In addition, they have to pay a $1000 fee semi-annually to renew their paperwork and remain in the program.
One restriction they face is that Dreamers do not qualify for any kind of academic scholarship. Consequently, only 4% of DACA recipients have been able to attain post-secondary education.
The restriction that affects my relationship the most is that Dreamers are forbidden from leaving the U.S.; therefore, he has never been able to visit me in Canada.
We have found ways to make this restriction work, but it’s certainly not easy. If you don’t cross the border often, you may not know that a person must spend at least 50% of their time in the country in which they reside. Thus, we must limit and track the time that we spend together. We are legally able to see each other for a maximum of 2.5 days in a week.
I have not seen him for a month now. The Canada/U.S. border is closed, and I feel that that is pretty ironic; from the time we started dating, we have navigated around the issue of him being unable to cross the border, and now the border is closed entirely. President Donald Trump has been a forceful proponent for the dissolution of the program altogether. That’s right, the President of the U.S. wants to deport every DACA recipient back to countries from which their parents fled from war, terror, and death. These are people that were children when they arrived in America, and most of these people only know life in the United States.
This issue has been occupying the U.S. Supreme Courts since Trump’s election in 2016. In fact, a decision concerning whether the program will continue was to be made in March 2020. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, this decision was delayed in lieu of new factors that lawyers are arguing should be considered. The fact is, 30,000 healthcare workers and a total of approximately 200,000 essential workers are Dreamers (Svajlenka, 2020). Will the Trump administration really deport thousands of people that are putting their lives on the line for the country during this pandemic? Vice President Mike Pence was asked this and refrained from providing a direct answer (2020).
There are thousands of Dreamers living in the U.S. who do not know if they will be able to return to regular life after this pandemic. Many U.S. citizens don’t know anything about this issue at all, and the public attention on Covid-19 makes for a perfect distraction for the Trump administration to achieve its goal. It doesn’t take dating someone that is a part of the DACA program to realize how wrong this all is. I truly believe that if more people knew what the Trump administration was trying to do, then there would be no question as to whether they deserve to stay in America.
No person deserves to be removed from their home and sent into a potentially life-threatening situation just because they were born on the wrong side of an invisible line in the dirt.
Many of us are so sick and tired of self-isolating because we are bored and lonely, and we just want things to go back to normal. However, there are people living just across the border from us who don’t know whether their lives will ever go back to normal again.
This pandemic has drastically changed the lives of millions for a period of time, but may potentially be used to change the lives of Dreamers forever.
Svajlenka, Nicole Prchal. “A Demographic Profile of DACA Recipients on the Frontlines of the
Coronavirus Response.” Center for American Progress, 6 Apr. 2020, www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2020/04/06/482708/demographic-profile-daca-recipients-frontlines-coronavirus-response/.