DACA is the American Ideal

Bolted to the Statue of Liberty is a bronze plaque with a poem written by Emma Lazarus. The poem reads, “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “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-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This message has been the beacon of hope for generations and a representation of the ideal of America.

When my ancestors decided to leave Ireland, they didn’t flee to Europe; they came to America, the land of the free and home of the brave because they believed in the American dream. The idea that if you work hard, pay your dues and embrace America as your home, you will have the opportunity to create a better life for yourself. This idea has not always been as clear as it should be, but it has held over time, until now.

The Trump administration made the decision to end the Obama-Era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was created to offer a remedy to the question Congress refused to answer: how do we protect the most vulnerable, undocumented immigrants, those who were brought here as children?  Commonly referred to as Dreamers, who journeyed to America under peril and lived in the shadows because their parents dared to dream for them a life of freedom and the prospect of prosperity that they could not have known in their homeland.

According to the Pew Research Center, DACA protects approximately 800,000 people.  It is not a stepping-stone to citizenship, but rather a light to a pathway out of the shadows, one that could lead them to live as productive and contributing members of society. Dreamers legally attend school, obtain driver’s licenses, get jobs, serve in the military and pay taxes like social security, which as non-citizens, is a check they will likely never cash. DACA allows them to live openly in the United States without fear of deportation, but with none of the benefits afforded under full citizenship.

The Obama Administration put in place strict eligibility requirements for applicants. To name just a few: they had to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; had to have come to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; currently be 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; and have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. Dreamers embody all of the qualities we desire in our population. They also have a huge impact on the overall economy.

According to a report on CNBC, the economic impact of eliminating DACA would be devastating. Ike Brannon, a fellow at the CATO Institute, co-wrote a study with Logan Albright about the cost to our economy and the federal government associated with the repeal of DACA. They put the overall cost in the range of $200 billion. Brannon said, “These workers, most of whom are in their 20s and hitting their peak earnings years, would end up not finishing college and taking jobs in the underground economy, earning much less and probably not paying any taxes at all.”

Our President has decided to cast aside the very individuals who personify the American identity, which is what makes America great.

For proof of just how awesome these Dreamers are, look no further than Jesus Contreras. As a Houston paramedic, Jesus worked six days straight after Hurricane Harvey only to come home to the news that our president decided he was no longer welcome in the country he serves. I encourage you to check out the Buzzfeed story on Jesus. He is truly a hero and a great representation of a Dreamer.

Now as callous as President Trump’s calculations are, he has left us an opening to correct his mistake. He gave DACA six months of life before he cuts the program. This is just enough time to fight like crazy to protect it.

Currently, one of the rarest events in the world is happening, bipartisan support for an issue.  Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator Dick Durbin have co-sponsored a bill together and Senator Thom Tillis plans on presenting his own bill later this week. So, capitalize on this and bug the heck out of your representatives. If you don’t know how to contact them, all you have to do is go to the House of Representatives website and look them up.

This is one of those opportunities outside of voting where you can actually make a lasting impact on your country.  If we can’t uphold the basic principles of the American dream, then who are we as a Nation?