Written by Yulissa Chavez.
Image by Yulissa Chavez.
Back in September 2017, President Trump called to end the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protected an estimated 800,000 young adults who were brought to the United States as children. With the program now coming to an end, these individuals are now eligible for deportation, regardless of their criminal record. Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s Attorney General, announced the end of the DACA Program, claiming that these young adults were lawbreakers who hurt American citizens by usurping their jobs and pushing down wages.
In response to the effects of the end of DACA, Dr. Raul Madrid, a professor in UT Austin’s Government Department who specializes in Latin American politics and comparative social policy, said, “Every individual has rights, whether you are a citizen or not. Undocumented immigrants have come here to work hard and make a better living for their families.”
“The fact is there is no way for these immigrants to come to this country with permission,” he added.
“It’s a lottery. There is no realistic way for these people to come here legally. Our economy depends on these people.”
Mayte Lara is a UT Austin sophomore majoring in Human Dimensions and Organizations with the Monarch Program, which is an organization at UT Austin that helps undocumented students, and was upset when she first heard about the end of DACA. While discussing her experience, she said, “The biggest motive [for immigration] is opportunity. In Mexico, you never see those opportunities. America is right here, it seems like a place of hope, somewhere to work. We come here to work, and seek the American dream.”
Since Lara was not born in the United States, she does not have legal citizenship. After arriving in America at the age of three, she “grew up, being part of the [American] community, working.” For her, she can’t conceptualize not being considered an American “just because [of] a piece of paper.”
“Even if I have work ethic, someone who is born here gets opportunities that I do not get, such as getting a license, applying for scholarships, and financial aid. Our parents usually have to work the ‘lesser’ jobs because they can’t work somewhere else,” she added.
DACA was implemented for young undocumented individuals to embrace opportunity. It allowed individuals to be innovative, creative, and productive citizens who could better themselves under protection and safety.
Without DACA, these opportunities and safeguards are no longer guaranteed.
Citizens who are not naturalized contribute to American society extensively, whether we see it or not. According to Dr. Madrid, “What makes the United States great is that we have a diversity of cultures. So, I am very much against this idea of immigrants having to adapt to American customs”.
The repeal of DACA as well as additional restrictions on immigration policy that have been implemented in the United States, hinders the cultural diversity that makes America what is it: a melting pot. The ideas that Dr. Madrid and Mayte Lara raise are crucial as the debate over who qualifies as a “true American” continues, both on our campus and in the United States as a whole.