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Let Them Dream

I have friends who, like me, are in high school; but are undocumented. Just like me, they dream of a bright future. They too want to represent their communities in their chosen fields of work. The only difference between us is that they came to the US as undocumented children – while I had the good fortune of being born on US soil to my documented immigrant parents. Imagine their lives – living under the shadow of deportation every single day. Not knowing if they can pursue their education and beyond in the land they call home. They all love this country dearly, but a simple piece of paper, or the lack of it, makes their lives so vulnerable.

A little over eight years ago, President Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, an executive action to provide temporary work authorizations and protections from deportation to qualifying young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children. This one act of President Obama opened the door to opportunities for the Dreamers. Since then, over 650,000 people have enrolled in the program, attended schools, joined the workforce and have contributed to their communities without having to worry about deportation. DACA recipients have joined degree programs, launched businesses, embarked on careers, bought homes, married and settled down – over the past 8 years.

However, the Trump administration has attempted since 2017 to end the DACA program. Jeff Sessions, his first attorney general, even labeled DACA as illegal. The lower courts found that questionable. And in June of this year, the Supreme Court outright rejected Trump’s attempt at scuttling DACA. In a 5-4 ruling, the highest court took a technical route in basing its decision on the fact that the Trump administration did not provide legal justification behind winding down DACA. And now, just last week, a federal judge in New York has ordered the Trump administration to begin accepting new applications for DACA. Now the DACA participants will also have the benefit of advanced parole – allowing them to leave the US for a time, without risking their status. The consequences of this decision is monumental.

Let’s all take a moment to savor this victory. It’s a victory for all Hyphenated Americans across this country. To quote President Obama, “We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us Americans are our shared ideals.” Dreamers, and DACA, at least for now, are here to stay. But let’s make no mistake. While President-elect Joe Biden is expected to fully restore the DACA program, this will not be the last time DACA will be challenged. As and when administrations change again, undocumented immigrants will be made scapegoats. DACA started as an executive action because of a failed congressional attempt at comprehensive immigration reform. Congress has been unable for decades to provide a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. We need a permanent solution to ensure the Dreamers – the undocumented Hyphenated Americans - continue to be a key part of the fabric of our nation. Time is running out…

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