Oh…. what? You thought a new year meant we could politely sweep all that nastiness from 2017 under the rug and pretend like it never happened?
Oh no. 2017 is like that time your Roomba did its thing while you were on your afternoon carpool run and the new puppy wasn’t in her crate… and well, you had detritus for days. months. years.* Yeah, that’s 2017.
The damage of 2017 will follow us for awhile and the DACA (Deferred Action and Childhood Arrivals) program needs to be in your mind this month – the month of honoring the birth of past Presidents and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. The month where we think about civil rights and those who have fought for them. People like Julissa Arcé. More on her later.
First, I’m going to assume you’re a bit like me… a girl with all the typical “American” trappings of adulthood. Maybe you’ve got a job or kids or a mortgage and definitely taxes and medical bills and a terrible addiction to bath bombs.
DACA probably wasn’t on your radar because you didn’t event know what DACA was. And honestly – well… you didn’t know any dreamers, right? Or so you thought. Here is the most politically neutral explanation of DACA I could find.
Second, even if you knew what DACA was… you thought it was over and done with. Protests were a hot flash in the pan of news months ago. Surely that was all worked out. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. On March 5 DACA will expire if the current two political parties can’t find a way to agree on how things should be handled.
But – let’s back up. Things are going to get… real for a minute and tongue-in-cheek ’cause that’s my style. I’m going to speak (write?) about the other side of DACA. The side that I relate to, and maybe many of you as well.
My experience was this. I’m the American girl that was was raised in rural areas or small towns or big cities and went to school in the 80s/90s with only a handful of kids that weren’t born in the United States. Maybe they brought weird party favors to class celebrations. Maybe they translated for their parents at the bank or the ophthalmologist office or grocery store. My family treated these families with respect. As equals. I didn’t call them illegals or undocumented aliens but instead (because political correctness and its associated vocabulary were only just becoming a thing) … instead my parents said things like, “they don’t have their papers” because that felt nicer than calling a human… illegal. or alien. That terminology was not civil.
Which leads me to implore you to think of DACA as a civil rights issue and not a Republican or Democratic one. It’s a human one. It is easy to make sweeping statements such as
“Why don’t “illegals” get in the back of the line and do it the right way?” The short answer is that “the line” is a mythical place, a phrase used to deflect the need for immigration reform. The fact is, for most undocumented immigrants there is no application they can fill out, process they can go through, not even a fine they can pay to start the process of becoming U.S. citizens. (If you read nothing else – I beg of you… please read this article.)
Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines civil rights, and I paraphrase, as free and equal citizenship – among other things. Go read it for yourself. In light of that definition – I would say that DACA program participants (affectionately called Dreamers) are due their civil rights. Let’s focus on the fact that the majority of DACA program participants were not active participants in their immigration journey.
Which leads me back around to Julissa Arce. She penned a poignant essay on her personal experience as a girl who lived in the United States with an (unknown to her) expired tourist visa. She went on to attend and graduate from the University of Texas and work as a Vice President at Goldman-Sachs as an undocumented immigrant. What? Your hedge fund manager is an undocumented alien? So passé. *wink*
Julissa, like many undocumented immigrants, wasn’t taking up space in “our” prisons. Wasn’t burdening “our” healthcare system. Or stealing a seat from “our” elementary school kids or wasting a professor’s time in “our” college lecture halls. Like I mentioned above – there wasn’t a fine to pay or a line to get in to start the process of righting the unintentional wrong. This goes against what, in my opinion, is one of the basic tenants of American-ism. The rights that constitute free and equal citizenship and include personal, political, and economic rights. Civil rights. Amiright?
So as you begin to work through your lists and goals and priorities for this year… think about having an item on that list in which there is no feasible way to accomplish it. Maybe then you’ll marginally understand why the dreamers are so passionate about DACA. For once, there is a reasonable method for accomplishing the task at hand.