Thoughts & Feels on DACA & DACA Repeal

Hello and welcome to this personal blog which I have not updated in forever and scarcely write in! In Trump’s latest avalanche of bullshit, #45 is looking to get rid of DACA. Since I am feeling charitable, a brief explanation on DACA: DACA is short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals- it’s a very slight form of relief that is meant to do (but sometimes fails) two things and two things alone:

1) Provide protection from deportation
2) Serve as a work permit.

It lasts two years, and after that needs to be renewed. It is not a visa, it is not residency, it is not citizenship, it is not amnesty, it is not a document that leads to any of those things ever, it is not any kind of permanent protection, it does not grant you access to Medicaid or Medicare, it does not make you eligible for any kind of government aid in terms of student loans, you cannot use it as an official form of I.D. and it only works if you reside stateside & while you reside stateside (put a pin on this, we’ll circle back to it).

Because Trump, the GOP & Co. want to undo everything Obama did, particularly symbols used by the Democratic party to feel good about themselves while doing next to nothing, they want to put DACA in a trashbin, light it on fire and use it as a means to warm up Trump’s tanning spray in order for it to apply more evenly.

DACA covers a little under a million immigrants- around 700k. Now, this looks like a significant number, but considering the number of undocumented people Stateside is 11 million, this accounts for around 5% of the folks who need protection. Not only that, but as previously stated, DACA is the bare minimum in terms of protection that is not even guaranteed; there has been at least one documented deportation of somebody who had DACA. As of August 22nd of 2017, the case was still ongoing.

DACA as is, is majorly flawed- in order to obtain DACA, you must be able to prove that:

  • You were under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012;
  • You first came to the United States before your 16th birthday;
  • Have lived continuously in the United States from June 15, 2007 until the present;
  • Have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time you apply;
  • Came to the United States without documents before June 15, 2012, or your lawful status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently studying, or you graduated from high school or earned a certificate of completion of high school or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or military (technical and trade school completion also qualifies); and
  • Have NOT been convicted of a felony, certain significant misdemeanors (including a single DUI), or three or more misdemeanors of any kind.

The set of rules required to obtain DACA contributes to the continued dehumanization of undocumented workers by prioritizing the view of value and worth in terms of ability to produce but only under certain conditions: DACA looks at immigrants as products before people, hence its emphasis (and only guarantee) on being a work permit.

Still even with DACA covering a small percentage, the risk of deportation looms large over the undocumented community; most families are composed by a mix of statuses, after all. Just by numbers alone, there are families that have no DACA members, but every DACA recipient will be part of a family that has members that are completely unprotected by any kind of immigration relief.

The championing and centering of DACA recipients as an immigrant triumph allowed Obama to become the president who deported more immigrants than any other president to date. DACA has been a case of settling for too little, and a failure in the immigration movement; including but not limited to:

  • Allowing the Democratic party to feel good about themselves by performing the bare minimum while deporting the largest number of immigrants with a Democrat for a president.
  • Dividing and strengthening the narrative of good vs bad immigrants based on who the U.S. government can use for their own interests by looking to keep a retiring baby boomer generation afloat through the labor of workers who will not be able to claim any of the benefits they are paying into.
  • Allowing for the erasure of Asian, black , Central American, and South American Immigrants. Don’t believe me? Who comes to mind when you think of Dreamers? The focus on the conversation being this way is not accidental. To clear the air, Asians are currently the biggest growing demographic of immigrants stateside.
  • Allowing liberal + centrist measurements of morality to determine who gets this next-to-nothing protection: People essentially brought over as children, who have assimilated to a point of comfort for most Americans (or are expected to) and who reinforce American nationalist ideals and American identity as determined by a majority white leadership. This means an invested interest in war as a way to perform patriotism (as shown by the fact that honorable discharge from military service can count as a qualifying document, as well as this hot mess)
  • Allowing for the weaponizing of a small set of immigrants against the majority as a form of policing and minimizing the majority. How? The only set of immigrants being spoken about, prioritized and protected are Dreamers. People who work in the service industry (maids, nannies, cooks), or as jornaleros and anybody after a certain age or with means of identification is still largely invisible and primarily considered only in the context of carrying the burden of labor for primarily white citizens.

 

We cannot be saved as a migrant movement without all of our migrants. We cannot be saved only by those deemed exceptional by the smallest protections- legality is not a pulling-yourself-from-your-bootstraps situation, not for those without DACA and not for those with DACA.

Dreamers should be protected, absolutely but the myopic focus on Dreamers has been painful to witness- families are still being torn apart on account of not being protected fully and not being eligible for protection.

Part of this has to do with the language surrounding not just DACA, but immigration as dictated by political parties. By and large immigration is seen as a binary: Democrats are pro immigrant and Republicans anti immigrant. There is nothing to show that Democrats are pro immigrant or have been pro immigrant for a while: Obama deported close to 2 million immigrants (including turning away Central and South American children deserving of asylum), Bush Jr (as part of the GOP) facilitated the gathering and violence from anti immigrants passed right after 9/11, Bill Clinton signed the IIRIRA in 1996 penalizing any immigrant regardless of age upon entrance. The road for Trump was built before him, and he was given a well oiled machine, decades in the making; the tone around immigrants started to change drastically around Reagan, from considering the humanity of immigrants and immigrant children, to the current derision of their mere existence.

We must protect Dreamers, yes, but not at the expense of the rest of their families and communities, and most certainly not in the manner of giving them an umbrella against the ongoing monsoon. We must look at who continually is left out of these conversations, and include them: AfroLatinos, disabled folks, Asian immigrants, Black immigrants, the LGBTQIA community, women, the poor, indigenous folks, Muslims, and so many others- and we must look at every permutation of these identities. We cannot be saved as a movement without each other.

As is, DACA deportations are not far fetched, it has happened once, and it has happened multiple times to actual US citizens who looked”undocumented” (i.e. brown). DACA does not protect you from a racist police force, does not protect you from being kicked out first and being asked about your rights or due process later and once gone, does not bring you back to the U.S.

Save DACA, yes.
But if you feel like you’ve done your share of good protecting only 5%-7% of the current immigrant population, you are the problem. If you’ve only focused on this as an issue worth caring about while Trump has been in office, you have not been paying attention and you are the problem. If you only look at immigration as a single issue without considering how an immigrant exists as a whole human and what identities they intersect, you are the problem.

Save DACA, yes.
But have honest conversations about how we got here. Stop putting out fires in houses made of matches- a bucket of water won’t save the thing from burning down. When folks bring up Democrats hands in this, it is not an attempt to deflect; it is a demand to acknowledge how we got to a point where so many liberals look at Bush Jr with fondness. The problem must be addressed, or we will continue laying bricks for a road to perdition- immigrants are fighting for their lives and have been fighting for their lives since before Trump. The solution towards this heartbreak isn’t removing Trump from office- it is throwing sand in the gears of everything, it is breaking the machine that would divide very real people from their communities and consider their worth only by their approximation to machines.

Save DACA.
Save Dreamers.
Save all Immigrants.

 

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