My thoughts on DACA and Dreamers
Elizabeth Naranjo Hayes, MA
I was almost a “Dreamer” (Dream Act of 2017), a DACA person... My Mexican parents debated on taking me the 10 min across the border to be born in Tijuana, Mexico versus San Diego, CA. I "happened" to need to be born via C-section, so I was born in the US, in San Diego county, about 10 miles from the border with Mexico.
I grew up around MANY people that were "stuck" in that miserable situation, due to no choice of their own, growing up completely and thoroughly American but not actually being legal Americans. Most had never even BEEN to Mexico [or were so small they did not remember it] and did not even speak Spanish!
Many reading this article may be of the mindset of “Send back all those illegals that are taking our jobs and draining our economy.” As a child of immigrants, I can assure you that no one WANTS to leave their home. It is a true travesty that people for many reasons in many countries around the world feel they have to leave their home for a sheer chance at survival. Since my parents were born and raised in Mexico, I can attest that the vast majority of Mexicans in the US that came here did so out of utter desperation.
“What do I care, I am an American, all of my family is American.” Well…
Imagine your wonderful home in Columbus, Georgia becomes unlivable, due to either mass violence or a complete lack of access to education, jobs, and basic services. In an attempt to escape the oppression of the 1% of the population that is in power, you decide to move… to Norway.
1) How do you get to Norway? 2) What language do they speak? 3) Aren’t they all platinum blond and blue eyed? Won’t I stick out? 4) I have no idea how their society works… 5) But I must, it’s my only shot at survival. So, you try to find a way to immigrate there, but the process is extremely expensive and takes 10+ years… if you had that kind of time or money, you wouldn’t need to go in the first place! But the human instinct for survival kicks in and you put yourself through the most horrific things just to arrive in Norway.
You take the crap jobs that the locals won’t do, for crap pay, you are looked down upon for merely looking different, you live in fear of being sent back to Columbus where you will surely be killed, and you just try to stay out of sight. You work long hours doing backbreaking work for just enough money to send home to your family and split an apartment with ALL of your co-workers. You can’t go outside, not even to buy groceries, for fear of being caught and sent back. You miss your family, your language, your food, your home… but you are doing this to give your family a shot at making it.
Now, imagine you are a parent and you found a way to bring one of your beloved children with you to Norway, and though you can’t shake your Columbus, Georgia “Southernness,” your child instantly adapts and becomes thoroughly Norwegian. Your child starts Kindergarten in Norway, goes all the way through school, and decides to go get a job… well, your child can’t because he has no birth certificate. So, he works for cash. He wants to drive like all his friends, but he can’t get a license nor even any sort of legal identification. He falls in love and wants to marry… can’t, no ID. He wants to go to college, but can’t because though he was raised his entire life in Norway, does not even remember the United States, might not even speak English, and only speaks Norwegian… though he is Norwegian through and through, he was brought illegally.
Hence the Dream Act of 2017 and DACA. According to Congress.gov, Dream Act of 2017:
… directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel removal and grant lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis to an alien who is inadmissible or deportable or is in temporary protected status who: (1) has been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding this bill's enactment; (2) was younger than 18 years of age on the initial date of U.S. entry; (3) is not inadmissible on criminal, security, terrorism, or other grounds; (4) has not participated in persecution; (5) has not been convicted of specified federal or state offenses; and (6) has fulfilled specified educational requirements.
According to Department of Homeland Security, Individuals meeting the following categorical criteria could apply for DACA if they:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated, or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Not only am I a college professor at Columbus State University (as well as at Georgia Military College and Central Texas College-Fort Benning), but I am also the sole interpreter at the Federal Court-Middle District of Georgia. 99.99% of the cases I interpret for are people in the EXACT scenario I described above. NEVER in all of the years I have been interpreting has there been anyone picked up that had a criminal record. Their only crime was fleeing their homeland and seeking survival in the US.
In fact, many crimes are committed TO this hidden population because they ARE hidden and CAN’T report crimes committed to them. Moms and kids are being stopped for no reason here in Columbus and picked up, the vast majority of the time it is only because they appear to be Amerindian. Nothing else. Then the parent is deported and the American born children are left in the US alone.
As a child of Mexican immigrants, it hurts my heart to see this level of desperation. The fact that people go through unimaginable horrors just to arrive here, just to endure humiliation, discrimination, and fear of deportation, just to survive… it is heartbreaking.
I wish there were a way to implement a documented workforce program so my fellow Latinos could get out of the shadows, work hard as they do, and not have to live in fear.
I hope that the children of these immigrants who did not have the luxury (or the luck) of having been born within our borders, the “Dreamers” or DACA people, are able to become legal in the only country they have ever known.
These are solely my personal experiences and I do not speak on behalf of Columbus State University.
Elizabeth Naranjo Hayes, MA
Written September 2017