By Emily Dwyer
Picture this: You just started college. You are the first in your family to ever attend. You never imagined you could make it this far, but here you are. You finally feel as though you have control over your future. And then a simple signature threatens to take everything you have worked for away.
A week ago today, President Trump decided that fate was a possibility for over 800,000 people. He proclaimed that if congress could not come up with a new immigration solution within six months, that DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would be repealed. The end to this program would be devastating for over hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families and have a crippling effect to our national economy, as this population is highly involved in the work force and in colleges and universities.
DACA was implemented in 2012 by President Obama in order to allow protections for youth, often called DREAMers, who were brought to the nation, illegally, at an early age. It allowed this group of individuals to obtain the right to work, drive, and attend universities lawfully without fear of deportation. The recipients of this program had to prove that they were brought to the United States before the age of 16, that they have no criminal record, and that they are studying or in the military.
The young people who are currently living here under DACA have settled in the United States. Thousands are enrolled in college, many the first in their families to attend. They are breaking economic and social barriers they never thought possible. A Centereach High School Senior, Adrian Leon, spoke of his story and how DACA has changed his life. Brought to the United States at about three years old, he began his life here. When asked about how he felt once he got on the program, Adrian spoke, “I honestly felt hopeful for my future… now I am happier than ever because I have a future in sight.” He recently started his first job, and is excelling in school and beyond. When finding out that President Trump had intentions to end this program that had such a profound influence over his life, he was shocked. “It felt like my future was turning black, so to speak,” he explained. He shared his hopes that congress would take the moral step in the right direction by passing a DACA equivalent, or keeping the system in place. Adrian however, even facing such a crisis, remained inspiring, strong, and hopeful in his response when asked what he would say to President Trump and opponents of DACA, if he had the chance. “As a country, we need to bring a little more compassion to this world… and to realize that something as little as DACA has such a positive impact on the lives of undocumented children. Whatever happens to DACA, the undocumented community will still prevail. We will continue to fight… We are strong and we will survive regardless.” These powerful words truly express the strength of the people affected by the repeal and reflect the ideals of the common Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” As members of the Centereach High School community, and members of this nation, we must stand with our friends, colleagues, and neighbors who are threatened by this attack on human rights. We must be allies.
The DREAMers have never known another home. For most, the United States is all they can remember. It is where they grew up, went to school, and made friends. It is where they realized that they can make a life for themselves however they choose. It is where they learned to dream.