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Dreamers needed Congress yesterday

| Monday, February 19, 2018

The immigration debate has been ratcheted up in recent weeks by impending deadlines and fierce rhetoric. Each shutdown or court judgment stokes the fire as President Trump’s March 5 deadline approaches.

“You have to learn how to live with it because, at the end of the day, there are a lot of things we should be grateful for. So you learn to live, like my parents have learned to live with it. And we’re going to be a family. You just don’t let that fear get to you,” Guadalupe Gonzalez, a Saint Mary’s sophomore, said. As a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, she watches the immigration debate with a careful eye. Congressional action will shape her future.

Despite wide support of DACA, Dreamers are used as political fodder, and no real legislation has gained traction. If our representatives truly want to protect Dreamers they will stop playing political games with American families and pass a clean Dream Act quickly.

Pew Research says that 74 percent of Americans want protections for Dreamers. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have vocally supported Dreamers. This, seemingly, is the will of a nation. A clean Dream Act should have been passed when Trump first tasked DACA to Congress on Sept. 5.

Instead, DACA has been pitted against legislation like Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and family-based immigration. Congress forfeits their own integrity by refusing to pass popular and just laws so that they can use Dreamers as a bargaining chip later. Current proposals increase spending for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and, inevitably, for immigration raids of the ilk seen in 98 7-Elevens across America on Jan. 10. Fear-based tactics and power plays that threaten Dreamers’ families contradict the American conception of justice.

Guadalupe came to the United States from Mexico with her mother before her second birthday. The dangerous journey ended in Chicago where they reunited with her father, who had been preparing for their arrival for more than a year. She condemned the current immigration negotiations.

“There are a lot of legislators using DACA people as pawns. Pretty much: We’ll give you protections, but you have to trade in your parents,” Gonzalez said. 

For DACA recipients, the March 5 deadline is severe. Every day thereafter, an estimated 1,000 Dreamers lose their work permits. In just two years, this will eliminate the roughly $42 billion in GDP and $2 billion in taxes that DACA recipients have contributed each year without any social benefits. For Gonzalez and other Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross students, this means an uncertain future.

“My DACA is going to expire a year before I graduate from college. So now it’s a question of: Would I still be able to pursue my career? Can I still do everything I thought I could? Are my options going to be even more limited now?” Gonzalez said. 

Future or family is no choice at all. As a nation of immigrants, we recognize that to be an American is far more than paperwork. Citizenship is the pursuit of the American Dream in accordance with our most dearly held values: family, opportunity and equality. Punishing families for their pursuit of a better life violates all of these. The consequences of inaction have never been more severe. With each passing day, there is more divisive rhetoric and fear in our communities. We need a clean Dream Act now. Demand Congress takes action to protect Dreamers and families.

A Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross student campaign, called DreamSB, is promoting awareness in our community and then bringing that voice to our Indiana legislators. We will be delivering petitions in our personal meetings at their respective local offices. Add your voice by signing this petition to show Rep. Jackie Walorski, Sen. Todd Young and Sen. Joe Donnelly that you need them to represent our classmates, community members, loved ones and our values as an American and Catholic university.

Dream SB can be reached on Facebook at @dreamSB.2018

Gwen McCain
Feb. 11

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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