DACA: Nine years later, many are not free in the land of the free

President Barack Obama said undocumented migrants “are American in their hearts, in their minds, in every way except one – on paper” when he announced the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals ( DACA) in June 2012.

He knocked on the house. I was six years old when my mother, a single mother of three and a survivor of domestic violence, decided to immigrate with us to the United States. I started going to school, learned English, and adjusted to the American way of life. My mother paid her taxes on time, worked religiously to support us, and cultivated relationships within our new community and church. I knew I was undocumented but I did not fully understand the repercussions that go with it.

Nine years ago, the Obama administration gave undocumented youth, commonly known as Dreamers, the choice to either stay in the shadows or provide the government with all personal information so they could “defer” it. expulsion. In good faith, many undocumented migrants chose the latter option and believed the government would protect us. That promise was short-lived when the Trump administration canceled the program in 2017, catapulting many into a roller coaster of emotions, a nightmare we continue to live in.

We mistakenly believed that freedom was synonymous with DACA and that Washington’s leaders would continue to work on much needed immigration reform. However, our humanity, our livelihoods and our stories continue to be held hostage and used as leverage to advance a political agenda.

Today, the urgency to protect Dreamers is omnipresent, with a Texas federal judge ruled that not all new DACA candidates are eligible for protections. Even if the Supreme Court itself decided in 2020 to maintain the program on a technicality, without a permanent legislative solution, the program could be eliminated.

According to USCIS, the program has nearly 650,000 people, including people from around the world who have put down roots in cities across the United States, contributing to the culture, economy, and general well-being of communities. As recipients of DACA, we pay approximately $ 5.7 billion in federal taxes and $ 3.1 billion in state and local taxes each year, helping fund our roads, schools and parks.

Through payroll taxes, we make contributions to social security and health insurance programs that we cannot benefit from. The beneficiaries of the DACA alone hold a purchasing power of 24.1 billion dollars. We are business owners, owners, students and educators. We hold a driver’s license, work legally, and continue to live in mercy. But there is no path to citizenship under DACA, which often prevents people from realizing their full potential.

DACA gave me the opportunity to become a Sommer Fellow at Johns Hopkins University to pursue an MPH / MBA by simply providing me with Social Security. As I continue to climb the academic ranks and pursue medical studies at SUNY Upstate, I am still hampered by the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of a tomorrow. The temporary nature of DACA still plagues our daily lives, especially when it neglects our right to access government assistance, seek permanent legal status and, for some, tuition fees to pursue higher education. Without a concrete solution, we are threatened with the expulsion and family separation of those who despise immigrants.

The reality is that Dreamers represent our parents’ legacy and their dreams to us. Growing up in the heart of an immigrant community on the Buford Highway corridor in Atlanta, I have come to appreciate the diverse fabric of our nation. Immigrants of all ages and backgrounds have woven themselves into the fabric of opportunity and freedom. I find strength in our differences and courage in stories of resilience. Now we need Congress to listen to not just immigrants, but 77% of Americans who support a path to citizenship for dreamers.

By providing dreamers with a deserved path to citizenship, albeit with laws such as the Dream Act and every other possible avenue, Congress can change the lives of those who endure a tumultuous journey in the program and those who are denied. this opportunity. The termination of DACA was a wake-up call that shook the foundations of the lives of those of us who call the United States our “home.”

I invite everyone, including Senses Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, to understand the humanitarian crisis that exists within our borders. Your advocacy and support, your education and the creation of safe spaces help us create momentum for change. The United States benefits from our presence here. We just want to be allowed to continue to thrive and contribute in the best possible way because the house is here.

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