By Faby Jacome
The Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy is under threat again. Congressman Luis Gutierrez sounded the alarm last week after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and were told DACA’s fate rested in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ hands. Now, ten states are asking the Trump Administration to end the program offering two-year work permits and deportation relief to young undocumented immigrants that qualify by September 5 or they will sue. Sessions may or may not put resources towards saving the program in court and Trump, himself, sends many mixed messages as to what he will do on DACA.
With all of that being said, what does that mean for many of us who are under the DACA? The truth is we don’t know. Politicians are telling us prepare for the worst but we don’t know in what way. Grassroots immigrant groups put the DREAMer term to sleep long ago, but in the fight for DACA it’s making a comeback. Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU) renamed ourselves out of the “DREAM” narrative because it leaves out a lot of people that weren’t able to go to high school and fit into the “deserving” check box that politicians want to put us in.
This brings out the “good” versus “bad” immigrant game again that can sometimes pit us in an us-versus-them situation. We end up hurting each other rather than fighting together. OCIYU does have one thing clear: We will fight to keep the program alive but we will also continue to fight for the community members that are not covered under DACA. We will continue to fight for our community members with criminal convictions and will not throw our parents under the bus to make ourselves more deserving.
Unfortunately, DACA has always come with strings attached. Many DACA recipients became complacent and forgot about the rest of our undocumented community once they got deportation protections. It saddened me to see many online and in-person forums where recipients talk about who deserves DACA and who doesn’t; Who deserves a second chance when applying for the program after any type of conviction and who doesn’t. Community activists won DACA for the community. Organizers fought like hell for the program in 2011, many of whom knew that they wouldn’t be eligible for its protections.
Never forget that DACA didn’t come from the goodness of President Barack Obama’s heart. He was the Deporter-in-Chief, remember? We fought hard and won a small battle but fell asleep right after only to wake up again when our own interests were put at risk. Yes, let’s fight to keep DACA but let’s not get too comfortable if we save the program and leave our community behind again.
Let’s build something together to make sure the government doesn’t continue criminalizing all of us.