Latinos For Education | By Andy Canales | June 23, 2020
My parents were undocumented for many years. They fled El Salvador in 1980 to escape a civil war in which they had each seen friends murdered by government death squads. They met in Los Angeles, married, and started a life together. For six years, they lived in fear of deportation. Then, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act into law. While flawed, it did allow them to work legally and apply for citizenship.
That same year, I was born. I grew up an American citizen with parents whose status was protected. That meant my parents could interview for any jobs they chose and drive without fear that an accidental illegal U-turn would send them back to El Salvador.
Many of our friends and family were not so lucky. Just through timing and sheer luck, doors that were open to me as the American-born child of protected immigrants would never be open to them. In 2012, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) eased that burden for many immigrants of my generation – many of whom have known no other home but the United States. They could go to college, work, and live their lives looking toward a future in the country they call home – but it’s all temporary.
When it became clear in the past few years that DACA was in jeopardy, I thought of all the ways that those of us who are protected would be affected if the 750,000 DREAMers were forced out of the U.S. Yes, 9,000 are educators and 14,000 are healthcare workers; they are teaching our kids and saving our lives. But we’d also feel the loss in more intangible ways.
America is made up of more than 325 million threads, each representing an invaluable member of our country – veterinarians, restaurant workers, math tutors, class clowns, kindergarten students, Pee Wee soccer coaches and more. 750,000 of those threads are also DACA recipients. If we force them out, we’re left with a hole in the fabric of America. And, we’d be sending our fellow friends, teachers, and healthcare workers back to countries they don’t recognize or governments they can’t trust.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling against the rescission of DACA means the fabric of our country stays intact for a while longer. While DACA is not the end-all, be-all, it is a Band-Aid, and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling is a much needed, albeit temporary, sigh of relief. To strengthen these protections right now, we need:
- Expanded legal status. The current age margins are arbitrary at best. Also, there are thousands of immigrants who embrace our country with arms wide open, and who contribute to the success of America every single day, but since they don’t meet the education requirements, they aren’t eligible. This needs to change.
- A clear and accessible pathway to citizenship. DACA has its limitations. For instance, DACA recipients that want to attend higher education are ineligible for federal financial aid, grants, or loans. Our DACA friends also can’t travel internationally to see loved ones in the same way citizens can. When President Barack Obama enacted DACA, he did so knowing that it could be undone by future governments. Congress and the current president must work together on a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and other immigrants.
As individuals, we must do what we can to keep the fabric intact by 1) encouraging eligible people to apply for the DACA program and 2) calling our representatives and telling them to pass the American Dream and Promise Act to provide DREAMers with a permanent path to residency and citizenship. You can reach the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. I’ve already called. I hope you will too.