by LEANNE PICHAY
If I were to tell you today to leave everything—your life, your home, your family—for a land you hardly know, what would you do?
For undocumented citizens, this question is a looming burden, haunting them from the moment they wake and guiding almost every decision made. The repercussions of deportation are well known: there is nothing positive about splitting apart families or taking away everything that an individual has worked towards. While there are ample arguments for the deportation of undocumented or illegal immigrants who have committed crime or are otherwise impeding on the safety and productivity of our nation, this demographic makes up a small proportion of the undocumented population. The majority of them simply wish to make a better life for themselves, and for their family. Such a strong desperation is what drives most parents to take their children from foreign countries and bring them across the border to the United States.
These children are especially innocent in the matters of their immigration. When an undocumented child is brought into this country, it is likely not their choice, but rather that of parental figures. Eight-year-olds immigrants are not raised to maliciously attempt to steal jobs, but rather to make something of themselves. They are dreamers, raised in the presence of those for whom the American Dream has always been a tangible reality. Who is to blame them for coming to believe in it too?
In 2012, President Obama demonstrated his understanding of this issue through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy. This allowed these children to be able to live their lives without fear for deportation and a work permit with which to contribute to American society.
President Trump’s plans to repeal DACA goes against the very spirit of this nation. He claims that he “[does] not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” defending himself by reminding the public of the importance of laws in our community. His claims and actions are completely contradictory. His repeated stereotyping of illegal immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals” speak for themselves. DACA recipients are thoroughly investigated to show pursuit or completion of education and a lack of criminal record; in short, these are not the leeches or gang members that we so often wrongly associate with the undocumented immigrant. Instead, they are merely people attempting to establish a productive life in the country they grew up in.
Trump’s allegations that his reforms are targeted at keeping the United States safe are in direct contrast with this repeal. Perhaps along the way, he may make it easier to deport a handful of dangerous persons. Nonetheless, in doing so he is taking away the protection and permits of hundreds of thousands of productive, honest adults who, through no fault of their own, grew up in a country without papers.
This policy is shortsighted at best, especially considering that for all of his claims of well-wishing, Trump has failed to provide viable alternatives that support undocumented citizens in their quest to integrate formally into the communities that they have given so much to. Deportations are occurring at an alarming rate and show no sign of slowing, and a multitude of good people with families, responsibilities, and lives deeply rooted in the United States are at risk of losing their protection.
These immigrants have faced persecution on every level imaginable, often pushing through low-income situations in bad neighborhoods, feeling as though their goals both in education and career are unattainable due to their status. The repeal of DACA has done nothing to aid in this. If we worked towards integrating rather than alienating these undocumented immigrants, we would be setting the foundation for an increase in the amount of key contributors to the progress of our nation.
If Trump truly intends to convince the nation that he has the best intentions for our security and progress, a serious change of mindset is in dire need. Instead of viewing each illegal immigrant as a criminal, it’s time he views them for what they are: the classmates, the friends, the valedictorians, the virtuous, determined people merely seeking opportunity in the land they grew up in.