by Audrey Hertel & Julia Hingorani
According to the 2016 United States Census Bureau, out of the 323.1 million people residing in the United States, 800,000 of them receive benefits from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
“DACA was developed as a way to allow these people who were brought here under the age of 16 to get deferred action. So they are not going to deport them. It’s not like they’re legal now, they’re just not going to deport [them],” social studies teacher and Young Politicians Club moderator Jillian Roger said.
The Young Politicians Club held a roundtable debate about DACA on Nov. 21. Junior Cori Johnson, president of the club, said that the DACA debate was very informative for Marian students. “I think that a lot of people left the meeting feeling a lot more informed about what will actually happen to people on both TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and DACA,” Johnson said. The discussion was about whether or not the current Presidential administration’s desires for DACA should happen. Johnson said that the debate was one-sided. “Everyone who participated in the conversation felt that the current administration’s view on all immigration is racist and morally wrong,” Johnson said.
The past Obama administration wanted DACA to remain a government policy and allowed the renewal of the program for individuals.
DACA recipients are subject to renewal every two years, meaning that this program can be short-term if not renewed.
The Trump administration stopped accepting DACA renewals on Oct. 5. President Trump is giving Congress six months to find a replacement for the program.
If Congress cannot make a decision, hundreds of thousands of people will lose the benefits of DACA and face the possibility of deportation as soon as their DACA license expires. The benefits include the ability to go to school, owning a driver’s license, the ability to have a job, social security and much more.
Deportations and loss of benefits can start occurring as soon as March of 2018.
“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families,” The American Council of Catholic Bishops said after receiving the news of the Trump’s announcement to repeal DACA.
“Opponents to DACA say that they [undocumented immigrants] broke the law. They shouldn’t be getting special privileges,” Roger said.
The individuals who are in the DACA program are not citizens of the United States. In order to become a citizen of the United States, the individual must have a green card for five years prior to becoming a citizen. Receiving a green card can be very difficult for many individuals. Even after receiving a green card, it can take up to 25 years for an individual to gain citizenship.
Roger educates students about issues similar to DACA. She also points out that debates on immigration are not necessarily new. “We saw this [debates over immigration] in the 1920s. We saw this again in the 1960s. We go through this every 50 years or so,” Roger said.
In 1924, for example, the Immigration Act prevented all but 2 percent of immigrants from any country to come into the United States. In 1965, the Immigration and Naturalization Act reformed the policy and opened the doors to more immigrants. This sparked a change in the demographic of America that continues today.
Teachers like Roger educate and help cultivate the minds of the future of America. In the future, the American youth will take the place of the leaders of today and will need to have opinions on matters with as much prevalence as DACA. One student who is practicing this now is sophomore Emily Saalfeld.
“I think it was wrong that [the government] allowed these people to come in, because they can illegally work then, because it’s kind of taking over the jobs that Americans can and should have,” Saalfeld said.
When asked about what motivates those who defend DACA, senior Megan Rutten said she believes that morality is at the root of this decision. “The idea that you are kicking someone out and not thinking about their lives or anything, it’s just thinking about yourself. I think it’s morally wrong to kick someone out of the country,” Rutten said.
Saalfeld and Rutten both said that when making decisions about topics such as DACA, officials need to find a middle ground.
To do so, Saalfeld notes that it is important to be able to listen to other opinions. “Everyone has their own voice,” Saalfeld said.
As for the future of finding a middle ground, Saalfeld does not see a bright one. “Realistically, I’m going to say it will probably never happen,” Saalfeld said.
Rutten, on the other hand, said that the youth of America is coming closer to finding a middle ground due to their level of involvement in politics.
“I’m really happy that a bunch of teenagers are getting really involved with politics because everyone complains that teenagers are lazy, and they’re gonna ruin the future,” Rutten said. “I think that if there are more teenagers that are involved in politics than adults, then that means in the future, politics might be better.”