Five Years Fighting: 5th Anniversary of DACA and the 2017 Dream Act

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Today is the 5th Anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It marks the progress that we as a community have achieved, but now it’s under attack. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a 10-state coalition is threatening to sue the federal government to end the program. In response, on July 20, 2017 Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a press conference to introduce the DREAM Act of 2017. The current iteration of the DREAM Act widens previous eligibility requirements, offering a pathway to citizenship for more people. But it relies on the all too familiar argument, captured by Sen. Durbin’s statement, “We don’t believe that young people should be held responsible for the errors or the illegal actions of their parents.” DREAM Act 2017 may be the most progressive immigration bill we have seen in the last 8 years, but it still leads to much of the same: the criminalization of our communities.

DREAM Act 2017 is a relatively inclusive bill that will provide some peace of mind for some immigrants; it allow families to be reunited, grant individuals a chance to thrive, and provide a pathway to citizenship. But it privileges those deemed deserving and qualified and leaves out many. Like its earlier versions, this DREAM Act divides the immigrant community because it operates by pitting parents against their children, the “bad immigrant” versus the “good immigrant”, and the “illegal aliens” with the Dreamers. While Senators Durbin and Graham present the DREAM Act as a first step in repairing the defective US immigration system, they fail to acknowledge its entanglement with the policing and criminal justice system. Black immigrants are disproportionately targeted by immigration and law enforcement policies evidenced by a higher deportation and detention rate. ICE gang database policies disproportionately target immigrants who live in certain neighborhoods. The Dream Act of 2017 ignores these realities; it further perpetuates the racist policies ingrained within these systems.

 

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We at UPLIFT-Los Angeles believe the DREAM Act raised more questions than answers. We see the possibilities it carries, but also see the divisions it creates between who is more deserving of being treated fairly and humanely. Why is an undocumented student who was able  to navigate the educational system more worthy than the undocumented immigrant who was not afforded the privileges of DACA, a lighter skin color, a better neighborhood, and/or a US education? The detention and deportation cases of Claudia Rueda, Gurmukh SIngh, Romulo Avelica-Hernandez and many others show that when we divide immigrant communities from so called “good” and “bad” immigrants we will continuing to separate immigrant families. Why must we dehumanize parts of our community in order to be treated with dignity? Are these the only choices we have?

As DACA continues to be attacked, we call for its protection along with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. We know of the opportunities and possibilities they give to those that are eligible. We acknowledge the relief and security they provide for their families, for their loved ones, and for their own personal goals and aspirations in life. We understand that DACA and TPS, although imperfect, has helped many immigrants survive in a country that continually questions their existence. We get it, we need DACA and other programs like TPS to stay and we will do all that we can to protect them.

But in this 5 year anniversary of DACA  we also want to challenge our community to think beyond just survival. DACA, TPS, and the DREAM Act 2017 will not solve all of our problems.  They may take care of the issues today, but they will never grant us the true liberation we are fighting for. No legislation has ever ended racism, nor sexism, nor transphobia, nor homophobia, nor xenophobia—nothing. We invite our community to engage in a real and productive dialogue with one another, we should not just celebrate programs and legislation as they come. We must remain critical and vigilant for our communities, when we do this we do more than just survive, we can also live.

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