“What happens to a dream deferred?” Langston Hughes
This week the Trump Administration rescinded the DACA program, which provides temporary legal immigration status to individuals arriving in the US illegally as children. In a national press conference US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the termination of DACA, stating that no new applicants will be accepted and that the program will officially end in six months, unless Congress passes immigration legislation approving DACA. Instantaneously, the Trump Administration has uprooted the lives of 800,000 DREAMers causing uncertainty, distress and disarray.
Initiated by President Barack Obama in 2012 through an executive order, DACA— Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—provides young people who came to the US as children legal immigration status. These children—also called DREAMers, named after the DREAM Act—were brought to the US illegally as children to no fault of their own. DREAMers have been raised as Americans and know the United States of America as their country.
Through the DACA program the US allows these young people to live, work and attend school in the US without the fear of deportation. The program does not provide a path to citizenship, but gives these individuals some protections from the dangers of living in the US as a non-documented immigrant. The permit is renewable every two years.
There are several conditions of the DACA Program, applicants:
- Must have arrived in the US prior to 2007
- Must have been under the age of sixteen before he/she arrived
- Must have lived in the US continuously since they arrived
- Must not have serious criminal records or be a threat to national security or public safety
- Must currently be in school, graduated from high school, received a GED or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces
In essence, DACA recipients are vetted immigrants with exemplary backgrounds, having met all stipulations of the program.
Despite the fact that DACA recipients have fulfilled all of the above requirements and live in our country harmoniously, the Trump Administration has decided to create a problem and pick a fight where there was none. By rescinding DACA and putting 800,000 young people in peril, the Trump Administration has again intensified divisions, xenophobia, and fear in our country. There are three major problems with the Administration and its handling of DACA.
First, the Administration’s language is a problem. Throughout the press conference Attorney General Jeff Sessions used offensive, racialized language. He continually referred to DACA recipients as “illegal aliens.”
Words matter! DREAMers are people, human beings with all of the needs and aspirations that all human beings have. They want to live in peace and happiness and pursue their dreams.
There are multiple reasons why individuals use this type of offensive language. Many do not see immigrants, especially those of color, as people. They view these immigrants as some type of foreign object, a thing, that should have no rights. In essence, disparaging words take the humanity out of the immigrant experience, resulting in leadership and the public lacking the empathy that they have with other groups of human beings. Additionally, many use this language to reflect and support their racist views. Has anyone ever heard of European immigrants referred to as illegal aliens?
There are many words that Attorney General Sessions could have used in the press conference—undocumented immigrants, noncitizen residents, unauthorized residents; however, he chose not to do so. By using words that dehumanize and degrade a specific group of people, the Administration chose to insult this group and simultaneously incite hostility towards this group. By using disparaging words with anti-immigrant connotations, the Trump Administration chose again not to demonstrate admirable leadership.
Second, the Administration’s argument is a problem. Attorney General Sessions continually spoke in terms of the “safety” of Americans. Did he actually read the stipulations of the DACA program? DREAMers are not criminal, wicked “aliens” eager to throw America into lawlessness, nor are DREAMers a threat to American security. Most DREAMers are law-abiding, admirable individuals who contribute to the American society. To criminalize immigrants and argue that the safety of America is threatened by DACA recipients is utterly a false argument.
Third, Trump’s leadership is a problem. First, Trump failed to take responsibility for his decision to end DACA by designating Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce the termination of the program instead of him doing so himself. This removed Trump from the burden of responsibility. Trump also failed to take action by not developing a viable solution for DACA. Instead Trump charged Congress to construct a solution, so he did not have to take action himself. Lastly, Trump again displayed his inability to be compassionate by carelessly ending DACA. Through his careless and insensitive decision Trump showed that he has little concern or empathy for the human experience.
By rescinding the DACA program, the Trump Administration has further enlarged the fissures of an already intensely divided country. Ironically, Trump has once again picked a fight that was not there. This is especially noteworthy, considering that most Americans support DACA.
What will become of the DREAMers? Will Americans stand with them and their dreams? Or, will their dreams be deferred?