DACA and the Path to U.S. Citizenship
By Francyne Hari
Posted on October 18, 2017 at 3:04 PM PDT
On the morning of Tuesday, September 5th, ripples were sent through the country when President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement to repeal DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In 2012, the Obama Administration instated DACA, allowing children to stay in the US for up to two years and be allowed to work if certain requirements were met.
DACA does not, however, grant legal status to those who have been granted deferred action. This means that there are several federal benefits that those covered under DACA do not receive, such as financial aid for college at the federal level. Another aspect of DACA is that it does not grant a path to U.S. citizenship for those have been granted deferred action, an aspect that can be troubling for many considering that many of those who do qualify for DACA have very little knowledge of any other country besides the U.S.
Recipients of DACA are known as Dreamers. This refers to the DREAM Act that was introduced in 2001 and has failed to pass since then. DREAM, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, would have allowed undocumented minors to apply for legal permanent residency in the United States.
The path to U.S. Citizenship is a long and difficult process often taking years just to get a green card which only grants permanent residency in the U.S. but is not the same as citizenship. A green card is a crucial step in the path to U.S. citizenship, but in order to obtain one, there are a variety of different criteria one must meet depending on the unique situation. For some DACA recipients, the path to U.S. Citizenship is closed off.
To get a sense of how difficult and long the U.S. Citizenship process can take, I spoke with a close friend who will remain anonymous for this interview.
F: What is your background and how does that affect how you feel about current tensions surrounding immigration as well as the recent announcement about the end of DACA?
L: As an immigrant myself, I am completely outraged. Refugees and immigrants come to America seeking a better life, a safer one than what they were given in their home countries. The current view of the nation toward immigrants and the end of DACA is absolutely NOT what America stands for; it’s not the American spirit, and it betrays the core values and mission that America was founded on. This only incites hatred and racism and does no good for anyone. Terminating DACA is ending inclusion, it’s ending diversity, and it sends the message to DREAMERS that the nation they have called home for most of their lives is not for them, but that it’s against them.
F: It’s sad to see what’s going on and the complete lack of empathy from a lot of people about the situation. What was the immigration process like for you?
L: The immigration process was very lengthy, took a lot of time, and was emotionally stressful for all of us. At first, only my mom, brother, and I were granted immigration and we had to move 6,000 miles away from home and grow up for three years without my dad. It took three years for his papers to finally go through and even after we were all here, it was many years later that we were finally able to apply for citizenship and receive it. What’s saddening is that we grew up outside this nation believing in the American Dream. It hurts to see that being taken away from so many people, especially when I’ve stood in their shoes and know what they’re fighting for which is stability, safety, and a future.
F: What are your hopes for the future for others who may be going through the same situation?
L: I hope that immigrants and anyone who’s here because of DACA know that the world stands with them. That we will fight for them, and that we support them because we are all human and the best way to defeat the injustice in this world is to stand together. I hope that they continue to fight for their rights and that they are not alone.
Although L was not a recipient of DACA, she is an immigrant. Her story, though not the same for everyone, reflects some of the hardships that people seeking citizenship and a place to call home can face.