“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”- Statue of Liberty
Now I want you to close your eyes and take a second, absorb those words, visualize and picture millions of people coming into this country, like waves, with nothing more than hope and a desire for “more“. Now imagine being a young child among those masses, America the only “home” you know. Fast forward to present day, 2012. No longer the small child, but now an adult, a member of society. You lived in this country, most of your life, was educated in this country, contribute to this country’s economy, you have literally grown up in this country, for someone to tell you that this is less your home than mine (citizen born here) is preposterous.
This country and the land we stand on was built by the sweat, tears and blood of Immigrants, we are a land of immigrants and in no way shape of form should we deter; let alone deport hard working, “dreamers” that want nothing more than to contribute to this country in exchange for a better life, sharing the same exact dream as our ancestors. The dream has never changed, but a select number of individuals have forgotten what it is that makes America special, it’s our mission as a society to not only remind them but also secure that “dream” for future generations of ambitious youth. It is no secret that Illegal immigration has become a public policy issue in this country, considering a growing population and a threat to national security.
But not all undocumented immigrants are the same and it isn’t fair to view them as the same- “Undocumented”, making it okay to send them back where you think they belong. Yes, some are criminals, some do pose a risk to national security, but there are others that do the exact opposite. There is a group of approximately 1.76 million undocumented youth in this country, youth that pose no national threat and want nothing more than to contribute to society. Many have dreams of obtaining a higher education, owing homes, driving cars, and securing permanent roots in the place many have called home for a majority of their lives.
But why does it just have to be just a dream, why should they remain in the shadows in fear of being deported. We as a nation that has been struggling with our rankings in education should not be punishing these individuals who actually want to pursue higher education in this country but can’t because they don’t have a “status”. We should be attracting talented and ambitious youth to want to come here to be educated and ultimately stay here to help this country continue to flourish and remain a powerhouse. Many attempts have been made to aid this select group of individuals with an ultimate path to permanent residency or citizenship through the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) and all of its variations over the past 10+ years.
Unfortunately, nothing has become of it, constantly falling short of passing in Congress, constantly changing its requirements, becoming nothing more than a victim of paralysis by analysis; leaving those that need it the most to stand on the sidelines and suffer because of our government’s inability to come together on a bipartisan issue and do what is best for this nation at a pace that is unacceptable. On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama announced the introduction of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a policy that enables children that were brought into this country undocumented and under certain conditions the opportunity to stay here for two years without the threat of being deported. In the president’s own words:
“This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stop gap measure.” (President Obama, Rose Garden Speech 06/15/12) The program will allow those who qualify to have access to work permits, in certain state’s drivers licenses, education, etc.
Currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety (www.uscis.gov) Since he announcement of the program, many have been quick to judge and criticize it, including the President’s motives with the upcoming election looming so close.
We all realize that the program is a giant Band-Aid on a bigger problem that needs a permanent fix, it is nothing more than a giant pause button that protects those that should have already been protected, helping people that have been neglected. But if you take a second and look at what it does accomplish rather than what is doesn’t you begin to realize that it does more than good. It is a baby step in the right direction; it is moving on an issue that has been going nowhere. Those applicants that have already been accepted may not have a “legal-status” or a visa, but they now have access and permission to work, pay taxes, go to school. This will be the fuel to the fire that Congress needs to solidify a permanent solution to a problem that this country should be happy to have. This is not a bad thing, this is a group of society that will add not detract, these people want to be here as opposed to having to be here, in many ways they appreciate the opportunity and hard work on a different level. What happens after two years?
In many ways the Obama administration just gave Congress a ticking clock to pass some variation of the DREAM Act. After two years you will have a group of people that fit into a gray area of work permits and drivers licenses, you can’t just take that away from them time is up, you can’t just leave them in limbo either. “As of Oct. 10, nearly 4,600 young undocumented immigrants have been approved for deferred action out of 180,000 requests accepted” (abc.news/go), a number that is sure to grow. I’m hoping the extreme reactions by individual state legislatures to the DACA program will encourage Congress to resolve this issue in less than two years.
A pattern of two extremes regarding the implementation of the program is beginning to form. On one extreme you have states like Arizona, Nebraska, and Mississippi blocks deferred action in their states and not honoring it and then you have states like California embraces those that are granted DACA and viewing them as “temporary legal residents”, enabling them to get access to drivers licenses. You now have a situation where a division is organically being formed, where Pandora’s box has been opened because 50 states will have 50 different reactions to the program with no clear legal guidelines. Anytime in this nation’s history, such variation and division is present the government has no choice but to step in and create a solution a uniform structure, this DACA program will be the catalyst to a permanent fix.
Many of those fears that if Mitt Romney becomes President his intention to revoke the program in favor of his solution, will disable the progress but they are wrong. He will continue to honor those who have been granted DACA and because these people merely exist a permanent solution is the only option, we have tied the hands of Congress. Whether Romney or Obama is elected president in this coming election a permanent solution is in our near future.