Stand with Dreamers

Taking away legal status only supports Trump’s deportation machine. It’s immoral and wrong.

By Jheanelle Wilkins

When I was five years old, my mother packed up our belongings, received well-wishes from family and friends, and migrated to the United States from Jamaica with me and my brother. A decade before we left Jamaica, some of my other family members were already living in the United States as undocumented immigrants who could be separated and sent back to Jamaica at any moment.

My family remained in limbo until Congress passed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that adjusted my family’s status. That law paved the way for me to become a citizen and eventually call the United States my home. Now, more than ever, we need our elected leaders to find the same courage and compassion to stand up and act to protect immigrants who live in our communities.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has allowed 800,000 young adults who were brought to the United States as minors to stay in the country, work to support themselves and their families, and live with a little less fear. DACA was implemented after years of organizing and leadership by brave, undocumented young adults and teenagers who stood up, stepped out, and demanded dignity in this country. As part of adjusting their status, DACA recipients have passed background checks by the Department of Homeland Security that have made them and members of their family known and visible.

Despite the success of DACA and clear bipartisan support in Congress, President Trump may soon announce a heartless plan to end the program. This decision follows his recent unhinged actions after Charlottesville that emboldened white supremacists, including his pardoning of outlaw Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Ending this successful program that is critical to the welfare of immigrant families would underscore his pattern of reckless decisions that harm communities of color.

In addition to the inhumanity of ending DACA, we know that it would be a huge blow to our economy. Without Dreamers in the workforce, our GDP could take a $460 billion hit over the next decade as employers lose their employees and businesses across the country run by Dreamer entrepreneurs could close.

We can’t forget that we are a nation with a rich and complicated history of migration, and throughout our history, the country benefited from the drive and ingenuity immigrants bring to the giant melting pot we call America. Dreamers are the nation’s future entrepreneurs, biochemists, engineers, social workers, activists, and so much more. We are lucky to have these talented young adults in our communities and benefit from their contributions.

As the president continues his attempts to alienate immigrants, we must stand with Dreamers and relentlessly defend DACA. For DACA recipients, this is their only home. Taking legal status away from them only supports Trump’s deportation machine. It is immoral and wrong.

President Trump should make clear that he intends to continue supporting the program, and Congress should immediately pass the bipartisan DREAM Act to enshrine DACA permanently in our rule of laws. I hope you will join Dreamers and allies alike across the country to call on President Trump to maintain DACA and urge members of Congress to pass a permanent DREAM Act.

Doing the right thing will make our economy and our great country stronger and go a long way towards fulfilling the promise that has brought many immigrants to America and has helped our country thrive.


Jheanelle Wilkins is the senior field manager at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.