Cutting DACA not best for Dreamers, country

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Sept. 8, 2017 at 3:57 p.m.

Jennifer Preyss

Jennifer Preyss   Victoria Advocate for The Victoria Advocate

The eventual phasing out of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, has officially been put in motion.

It was one of President Donald Trump's campaign promises. It was announced Tuesday the program, which allowed some 800,000 young immigrants or "Dreamers" to obtain temporary legal status, will end in March.

That doesn't mean these 800,000 will be deported in March. It means, for starters, these 800,000 will live in a state of transient-status fear beginning now and any work permits obtained by them will begin to expire over a period of two years.

Congress, meanwhile, will be forced to come up with some kind of legislation reform.

Those included in DACA did not come here illegally of their own accord. They illegally crossed borders with parents, who brought them without their consent (because they were children). They didn't choose the U.S., or break her laws - it was chosen for them. Say what you will about the parents, but the plight of these children is legitimate.

When trying to imagine myself in their place, I'm not sure I would know how to feel if I knew the government was about to take away my ability to work and live in the only country I've ever known.

These DACA children grew up in the States, adapted to American life, attended American schools, made American friends, and learned to speak American-accented English. They have no bearings of their home country; even if they were deported, they would be going home to the unknown and forced to start over in a place that made no sense, perhaps in a language they do not fully speak.

Megachurch Christian leaders in the Evangelical and Catholic organizations came out immediately this week and opposed Trump's decision to end DACA. They have a stake in this fight. Many of their Hispanic members nationwide are either personally worried or personally affected by Dreamers who attend, work for or lead their churches.

If these Dreamers can no longer work for, lead or attend church, whole networks of Christian projects and ministries will begin to shut down or halt. And that's just inside the church walls.

Imagine what would happen outside the church, in the everyday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workforce if 800,000 people suddenly lost their ability to earn a paycheck because the government expired their work permit. Who pays for them when the money runs out? How many will end up in poverty or be forced into under the table jobs?

Many of these Dreamers are also sending portions of their paychecks to their immigrant parents, who cannot legally work. What will happen to these families?

CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations - the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization - also decried the DACA announcement. They, too, have a stake in this fight. Travel bans, and surges of Islamic attacks and hate group uprisings in the nation in recent years, have made the organization sympathizers with other minority groups facing immigration-related governmental fallout.

It helps to sympathize, but I'm sure it does little to soothe any fears of those affected by this announcement.

As the wife of a man currently going through the U.S. immigration process legally, and paying thousands of dollars and waiting months and months (and months and months) to move half an inch forward in the process, I'm paying attention to anything immigration related in the news, including travel bans and global restrictions, terrorist attacks, Congressional reforms of any stripe that may or may not affect us.

We're going through the process legally, and it's a nightmare. I can't imagine the nightmare that awaits these Dreamers.

What frustrates me about this announcement is that rather than Congress dealing with immigration reforms that would help people like me and my husband, who are legally paying for and waiting for our place in the legal American immigration cue, we issue travel bans and make fear-filled announcements that temporarily Band-Aid the problem. We put those who will suffer the most from abrupt immigration reforms at the front of the line as guinea pigs.

Why not work from the core of the problems: Fix the legal system so you won't have so many people cutting the line, then work with those cutting the line, and penalize those who deserve it. Make decisions that reward lawful behavior, form a cutoff line and date and create some confidence and equity in the system.

At some point, it's going to have to be a "From here on," situation, where some will fall on the right side of the timeline and others will not.

In the meantime, what about our case? When are you all in Washington prepared to move us law-abiding folks forward? We've waited, we've filed all your paperwork, taken your tests, done your bloodwork, kept thick folders of all of our records and paid our fines and dues. We've followed all your rules for two years. And every day that passes, when someone asks me a question about our status, I still have to say, "We're still waiting to hear something."

If that's the best we can do, it's not enough. And I hope and pray as these Dreamers prepare for the unknown in this DACA decision that we, as the greatest country in the world, can be mindful of the havoc this reaps. And I pray our governmental and political leaders, wherever you are, will do your job quickly and rightly and remember how many lives your decisions affect, both those living here legally and not.

Jennifer Preyss writes about religion and spirituality. You can reach her jenniferpreyss.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @jenniferpreyss.


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