DACA: A Perspective

Robbie Pomeroy '19
Guest Columnist

I am deeply saddened by the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Eliminating this protection affects thousands of individuals of different colors, creeds and countries of origin living in the United States. The xenophobia of this administration are going to ruin lives and tear apart families. 

Legal and policy reasons aside, this decision is distasteful on the most basic human level. Many of the people I know who were DACA recipients know no other country. Their only language is English. They go to school and have friends and family in the States. They have dreams and aspirations as big and bold as the ones each of us have here at UVa. They are your neighbors and your classmates. They are just as American as you and I. This administration is creating dividing lines where none should exist. 

The only difference between a DACA recipient and me is the fact that they were born in a different country. They were brought to this country when they were too young to have a choice in the matter. Many of them had no idea what it even meant to have papers or not. Growing up, they were just like any other person in school. The people affected by this decision are human beings who are American at their core.

We also should not blame the parents of childhood immigrants to this country. The reasons people choose to relocate their families to the United States are abundant. In my experience, the reason has almost always been for the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. Parents do anything for their children, and I do not fault anyone for making the decision to immigrate to the United States as an undocumented person. It is a deeply personal decision and a tough one. You have to leave everything behind, potentially risking your life, to overcome the barriers (both physical and otherwise) of getting into the country. And once you make it to the U.S., the barriers to becoming a part of society are still there. It’s not a path for the faint of heart, and I respect those who make the decision for the betterment of their families.

My mother was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. When she immigrated to the United States with my uncle and grandmother as a young child, it was as an undocumented immigrant. Eventually she became a naturalized citizen, but she went to school for several years in California without documentation. My grandmother had a tax-paying job at a phone company and my mother and uncle went to school just like anyone else. Obviously, this was all decades before DACA was ever even contemplated, but imagining these circumstances under the present climate in America, I begin to wonder what would have made my mother so different than everyone around her or why someone would want to create a line barring her from going to school or participating in society.

Before DACA, people living as undocumented immigrants had to hide in the shadows. They couldn’t bring attention to themselves because they feared for the safety of their families. DACA was an Obama-era program that allowed recipients to participate in society without fear that harm would come to them or their families. It gave people hope and a way to achieve goals and dreams that did not exist before the program.

The decision to end the program means there are so many things we need to do. Thousands of people need to renew their DACA benefits by October 5th. We have a call to action to contact our representatives in Congress to create legislation that will save the lives of all of these people. But both of these measures are short-term solutions for a problem that is much larger. For those lucky enough to be able to renew, the reprieve is only two years long. And while legislation codifying a DACA-like program would be helpful, it does not solve the underlying problem—the necessity of immigration reform in this country. The barriers to entry are severe and targeted. While we can and should participate in attempts the rectify this decision, we also need to advocate for more comprehensive immigration reform.