DACA – Relief with Controversy

James Ogoti, Staff Writer

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In 2019, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has become an important political issue for many Americans and the country’s political leadership, with support for and those against mainly divided between party lines. Proponents of DACA say it is good because it eliminates the recipients from being easy targets of crime, increases their cooperation with the police, and it has reduced the number of undocumented immigrant households living in poverty. The opponents of DACA say that it only encourages more illegal immigration, that amnesty should not be given to people who have broken the law, and that there are other legal options for immigration to the U.S.

To address the plight of individuals who brought to this country illegally as children, President Barack Obama issued an executive memorandum on entitled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on June 15, 2012, commonly known as DACA. Criteria for eligibility included: individuals who were 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012, came to the U.S. while under the age of 16; and have continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007, to the present.

Individuals who met these criteria could apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for deferred action. While DACA did not provide a path to citizenship, it did remove beneficiaries from the risk of deportation and allow them to obtain work permits and work legally for the first time in their lives. Within the first year of the program, just under half a million applications were submitted to USCIS, with close approximately 71% of these approved.

“I have met many people in these circumstances, and I have encouraged them to apply. The people who have stayed in contact with me said they are glad they applied, but they still feel a burden because it has not lead to any permanent arrangement. After all, we have failed at comprehensive immigration reform.” This quote is the response I received during an interview with a former member of the Department of Homeland Security leadership who had assisted in the drafting and implementation of DACA when asked what she would advise someone who was brought here illegally as a child. Would she encourage them to apply? Based on this interview, I concluded that she still supports DACA and feels it was the right thing to do to help people who were living in the shadows through no fault of their own.

After all, we have failed at comprehensive immigration reform.”

— Former Member of the Department of Homeland Security leadership

In a September 2017 letter to students and parents, OLGCHS President, Dr. Paul Barker, expressed his dismay regarding the administration’s decision to rescind DACA. In his letter, he quoted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that said, “The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible.” Dr. Barker went on to say, “I write as the head of a school where this feels personal. We think it is highly likely that we have some undocumented students at Good Counsel.” Dr. Barker’s letter was an important reminder to our school community that people we know and care about could be negatively affected by the repeal of DACA.

I write as the head of a school where this feels personal. We think it is highly likely that we have some undocumented students at Good Counsel.”

— Dr. Paul Barker, President, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School

“I do support DACA because it is preventing innocent children from living in poverty, and it protects them from being deported back to the dangerous countries that they came from. They did not come here of their own will, so why are they the ones being punished?” This quote was received from fellow GC student MJ Frye ’21. Many people have very similar opinions to this, stating that it is unfair to the children who are being brought illegally and are facing severe consequences. “I think it is fine since these are innocent children being brought here illegally without knowing the consequences they could potentially be facing. As long as they’re not committing any crimes or harming people, I believe that they deserve basic but not equal rights as an American Citizen would have.” This statement was from Gutema Deressa ’22, a fellow GC student.

There are many contrary beliefs to the previous argument, however. “I feel like this is not fair to people living in America legally. If they want to immigrate here, there are steps they can take to come here legally, but they shouldn’t be excused from breaking the law to stay here.” This was a quote from a GC student who would rather not be named. Although there has been a wide range of support for DACA recipients in the U.S, many Americans still disagree. A poll was taken by NPR asking whether the legal status of DREAMers should be approved found that a third of Americans opposed it.

As we begin 2020, DACA continues to be a controversial issue, with staunch supporters as well as detractors. These differing opinions exist within our own school community. The future of DACA is sure to be a frequently debated issue in the upcoming presidential election.