Our Viewpoint: ‘Dreamers’ tell their story: What will come from this nightmare?

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 2:30 PM

Some names have been changed to preserve the identity of Dreamers.

Before Sept. 4, not many were familiar with the term DACA or DREAMer. Things changed when the Trump administration declared they were ending DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Barack Obama implemented DACA in 2012 through an executive order after many revisions of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) act were denied by congress.

The DREAM act was first proposed in 2001 by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. The act has undergone much revision and received support from both parties, however Congress has not yet passed it.

DACA is a program created by the Obama administration, which allows young people, who were brought to the United States illegally by
their parents, the ability to receive a temporary reprieve from deportation. The program also allows room for such individuals to receive permission to attend school, and obtain work permits and driver’s licenses.

Individuals born after 1981 were eligible to apply for DACA while also proving to have lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007. They were also required to prove that they arrived in the United States before the age of 16.

DACA applicants must prove to have clean criminal records. They must also be enrolled in high school, college, or serve in the military. Applications are renewable every two years.

After President Trump announced his removal of the DACA program, uproar spread across the nation. Protests and rallies began almost immediately in response to the announcement. Dreamers began telling their family and friends goodbye. Individuals with applications expiring this year began frantically resubmitting their applications for approval.

These are individuals who have lived in the United States for the majority of their lives. Most were brought to the states as babies and have never known another country as their home. Why is it that a baby born in the states has more privileges and acceptance than a documented baby brought to the United States from another country?

Jared Zuercher, 17, of Los Angeles, California, arrived in the United States 15 years ago at the age of two. After learning that the DACA program was implemented in 2012, he soon realized that he could finally make it in America. To Zuercher, DACA represents hope and acceptance. He expressed concern for the country he considers his home. As a recipient himself, Zuercher recognizes DACA as an opportunity provided to undocumented individuals to prove their dedication and worth to society.

“DACA embodies American history,” said Zuercher. “It demonstrates to immigrants that the government accepts and acknowledges its roots. The United States, as a whole, accepts those who are willing to adopt and embrace the United States as their home, because at least to them that is what they consider it and they will do whatever they can to contribute to the improvement of the U.S. as any real American would. To quote a famous musical, ‘Immigrants, we get the job done,’ and I hope that congress accepts that and allows DACA to stay.”

When asked if he ever had plans of becoming an American citizen, Zuercher explained that from a very young age he had always wanted to become a citizen, however he does not currently meet the basic requirements, so at the moment, that desire is no longer an option. He still plans to persevere and seek opportunity.

“America, to me, is opportunity,” he explained.

“The ability for one to better themselves, write their way out, improve their situation and achieve the coveted ‘Rags to Riches’ success stories is inspiring and reminds me of why America is the greatest country in this world.”

Harry Quinn, 17, of Los Angeles, was brought to California as a baby by his parents. He has always sought ways of becoming a U.S. citizen, but lawyers have yet to find a solution. He is currently unable to legally become a citizen.

“DACA, to me, means that Iamabletolosemyfearof being separated from my family and friends. It means thatIwillbeabletogoto university (the first in my family), make my parents proud, help my family financially, have a good education and be able to work,” said Quinn.

He continued on with admiration for his home, stating: “America is my home. To me, there’s no other home for the fact that I do not recall any memory of my ‘home’ country [and] for the fact that I was a little kid when brought here. America is where I grew up and hope to stay.”

One of the myths associated with the DACA program is that these individuals are undocumented immigrants who are mooching off of the system in order to receive a profit and free education. Many dreamers do in fact seek education in the states.

Most Americans are able to receive financial assistance from the government in some fashion. According to College Board Big Future, about two- thirds of full-time students paid for college with the help of financial aid in 2014-15. However, those numbers exclude undocumented students, including DACA participants, because such individuals are unable to receive federal student aid. Although it is not guaranteed, some recipients are still eligible to apply for college or state aid.

Isabella Laythe, an Edinboro native and U.S. citizen, met her fiancé Luis Rodriguez at Seattle University. The couple is trying to stay positive and has not made a decision on where they will go if Congress does not pass a supportive measure. Whatever happens, they know they will be together. Laythe was not surprised when she heard the news, however she was disheartened. She explained that despite the circumstances, they are trying to stay hopeful.

“I have so much privilege, so part of my responsibility is acting on it. A lot of what I’ve been feeling is ‘what can I do now?’ How can I change this narrative,” she said.

Laythe went on to explain that we need more comprehensive immigration reform and an easier pathway to citizenship.

“I think that we need to stop benefiting people from Europe and there is a clearer system, like we have a system that is benefiting white folks, it’s benefiting people that have money, and it’s not necessarily doing anything to help people of color or people who are coming from lower social economic statuses. I think that needs to reworked. I think it’s unfortunate that it has to be so difficult,” said Laythe.

She continued: “I think it’s problematic as it is now, and it shouldn’t be so hard in my opinion. Then again, I’m not in Congress so I have no idea how hard that would be to implement. But as an outsider, I’m looking at this and thinking, ‘How is this fair?’ How is it that I can be born in the U.S. and [have] literally done nothing? It’s not like I’ve served my country or anything like that, but here I am as a U.S. citizen and here I have all these privileges. Here there are these individuals who have lived in the U.S. longer than I have because they were brought over as young people or older. They have been living here longer than I have; they cannot become permanent residents and they cannot become U.S. citizens because there is no possible way for that. How does that make sense?

“They have done so much more than I ever have and here I have so much more privilege.”

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, 752,800 people became a naturalized citizen in 2016.

Rodriguez came to America at the age of five and admits that this is the only country he’s ever known as home. His memories and life are here. Due to the fact that he was an undocumented citizen, he had to provide for his family by taking the money he was earning from his job to help his family pays bills.

When he went to college, Rodriguez received no financial aid and had to pay out-of-pocket for his education. On top of having to pay for schooling all on his own, he was also paying out-of-state tuition. Although he has mixed emotions about America, he knows that this is his home. He has known other dreamers who have been separated from their family because of the broken system in place currently.

“People who are making the decisions up in congress do not know the implications of DACA being lost; I hear senators left and right, democrats and republicans, talking about the numbers, but they’re not seeing the human aspect of this. These are real people; we want a better life,” said Rodriguez.

He continued to explain that the system keeps failing because dreamers are used as political pawns. He is constantly reminded of who and what he is fighting for.

“It’s more than just losing DACA. I heard one participant say ‘We’re going to fight like hell’ and that’s what we plan to do.”

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are approximately 800,000 DACA recipients. New York is the fourth ranked state when it comes to residency of DACA participants, as they have 5.3 percent of participants. There are 10,382 accepted DACA participants to date in Pennsylvania. There are 73,493 DACA participants to date in New York. There are 414,969 DACA participants in California. These people could be your neighbor, your friend, your coworker, your family. Do you really not care that their future is at stake?

As American citizens, it is our duty to understand the laws put in place by our government. We must understand the benefits and losses from getting rid of major programs that contribute to a section of the population. Therefore, we must educate ourselves with the proper knowledge from reliable sources.

In order to create change and understanding, it is important to take a direct look at some government resources on the subject matter. Ask yourself some questions: why should we care? Will this affect our economy? How will this affect me? Can I do anything to help?

Congress has until March 2018 to make a final decision. In the span of seven months, bills can be passed, voices can be heard, and change can be made. Do what you must in order to make a difference and change our country’s fate.

Hannah Webster can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com. 

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