How would you know if your coworker was a Muslim or an atheist or a Christian? How would you know if a woman that is part of your weekly happy hour group had had an abortion in her 20s? How would you know that the guy leaving the men’s room as you enter was actually born a woman? How would you know if your neighbors were undocumented?
The more important question, however, is this: Why would you care? If you somehow found out about any of those, would you turn that person into a pariah? Would you suddenly be disgusted? Would you get on the phone to the authorities? I suppose some people would do those things, but I refuse to believe it is anything but a vanishingly small percentage of us.
About a year and a half ago, when the prospect of a Trump presidency was still something very few people took seriously (though you could argue that number hasn’t changed much), I wrote a piece about religious hypocrisy as it related specifically to immigration. This post isn’t about hypocrisy, just reality.
Donald Trump may announce the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), federal policy since June 2012, as early as Tuesday September 5, 2017. To be clear, this decision would have absolutely nothing to do with the rule of law, economics or equity. It would have everything to do with xenophobia and a continued promotion of a white nationalist sentiment among the hard core Republican base.
Some people claim the implementation of DACA was presidential overreach. Perhaps. But meaningful immigration reform (which I support, for the record) has eluded the grasp of Congress for 20 years. With repeated legislative bickering, Obama decided to act for the children who were brought to the United States by their parents, and for whom this is the only country they have ever known. These kids have attended our schools. Their parents have attended PTA meetings, and encouraged their kids to dream, just like we all do.
I have seen many utterly false claims about DACA, so let’s take a look at the program’s requirements:
- Came to the U.S. before 16th
- Have lived in U.S. continuously since 15 June 2007.
- Was born after 16 June 1981.
- Was physically in the U.S. on 15 June 2012 and at the time of making the request (that is, may not make request while not in country).
- Had no lawful status on 15 June 2012.
- Either currently enrolled in school, already received a high school diploma or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces.
- Have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors.
- Pay a $495 application fee.
- DACA recipients must submit an additional form and $575 if they wish to travel abroad – but only for educational, vocational or humanitarian reasons. Leisure travel is not allowed.
Meeting these requirements does not guarantee acceptance. If accepted, the application must be renewed every two years (along with another $495 application fee. As of June 2016, between initial and renewal fees, this has resulted in over $630 million paid to the U.S. government). As of June 2016, there were 741,564 people with approved initial DACA status. DACA does not offer any path to citizenship. DACA does not protect the parents of the recipients. DACA does not make recipients eligible for federal financial aid. If Trump announces DACA will end, those currently in the DACA program will be faced with deportation to a country they likely have little to no memory of ever being in. Considering the amount of paperwork required to apply for DACA status, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not have much difficulty finding these young men and women who, when coming out of the shadows, trusted the government to hold up its promise. Their only ‘crime’? Coming across the U.S. border with their parents, who themselves were only seeking a better life.
Current reporting is that Trump may give Congress a six month window before officially ending DACA. With the disappearance of any inkling of bipartisanship (for which I place the blame equally on both parties) and the aforementioned hypocrisy among the religious far right, a six month window might as well be six seconds.
How can that change?
It can change by imagining that the kid who played that awesome clarinet solo at halftime the other night, or who you see working weekends at the grocery store to help save for college tuition, or who is in the running to be valedictorian at your son’s school, actually has no legal status in this country. It can change by caring more about our future generation as a whole and less about where they might have been born. It can change by calling your Congressman.
I have never, nor will ever, ask if my students are gay, trans, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, undocumented or anything else. I care about each of them equally, regardless of any label that society may want to slap on them. What I do is make sure they ALL know that my room will always be a sanctuary and that I will do everything possible to keep them safe.
And a part of an American society that we can all be proud of.