Why Supporting DACA is the Right Thing to Do

[If you’d like an explanation of DACA, it can be found here and here.]

How many of you were born in another place and moved to what you consider your home as a baby or toddler? Do you remember your birthplace? If you were born in Paris, for example, and moved to San Francisco at 6 months old, never once returning to France, not speaking French, which culture do you know and understand?

This is the dilemma of the young people who have benefited from DACA.

I taught many, many students who were either undocumented themselves, or had family members who were undocumented. My particular students were primarily from Mexico, although people benefiting from DACA are from all over the world. These kids came from other countries as babies or children and have not been able to go back to the country of their birth. The United States is all they’ve known.

These kids did not choose to come here. Did you get to choose where you lived as a baby or a preschooler? No. They had no choice. In every single case I know of, the parents agonized over the decision and came because their circumstances in the other country were SO dire.

Benefits to the United States

There are some handy statistics on DACA recipients here, and the ones that jump out to me are: 95% of DACA recipients are working or in school. That is a MUCH higher percentage of “productive” residents than American citizens. 21% of them work in education or health services, fields where we desperately need more workers because people are so underpaid. Oh, also 100% of them have no felonies. One hundred percent. It’s a requirement to be in the program. What other group of Americans can you say that of? DACA recipients are, statistically, more productive and less violent than any other group of Americans I have found. Also, they pay a ton of taxes. Our society is benefiting from having them here.

The Cruelty of Rescinding DACA

Aside from how much DACA actually benefits the US economy and American citizens, rescinding it is just plain cruel. These young adults have not known any other country. I’ve been to Mexico about 15 times. I love Mexico and have a pretty good understanding of how the society works, and I have friends there who could help me. It makes more sense to deport me, a white woman whose family literally came over on the Mayflower, than it does to deport DACA recipients. They don’t know their country of birth. They don’t know how the economic system works, how the politics work, how to find a job, or how to get an education there. They don’t have friends there and in many cases, they don’t have family there. They often don’t speak the language of their birth country fluently.

If American citizens are comfortably dropping hard-working, crime-free, tax-paying Americans into a foreign country they do not know, with zero support or understanding of that country… then I don’t want to be an American.

How to Support DACA Recipients

This program is essential to the recipients, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it could be the difference between life and death. It’s hard to know how to help, but there are some concrete steps that you can take to stop this travesty from happening.

It is essential that your elected officials understand how many people see the cruelty of rescinding DACA and see the benefits that DACA recipients bring to our country. Call them, tweet them, email them, and fax them. Every day. Use the hashtag #defendDACA. While you’re at it, contact the White House every day.

Support any DACA recipients you know. This is the most frightening thing in the world for them. Have compassion, listen, pray for them, march for them, share their stories. They deserve so much better.

Author’s Note: This is by no means a complete history or explanation of DACA. It also does not express my full anguish about this issue or how devastating it is to those affected. If you’d like to read stories of the kids I taught, many of whom have benefited from DACA, please check out my book, Literally Unbelievable: Stories from an East Oakland Classroom.