DACA affects students and communities

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by Andrea Bian, ’18 and Josie Donlon, ’18

On September 5 the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), affecting the status of nearly 800,000 undocumented youth in the United States.

Recipients of DACA, often referred to as Dreamers, are undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Applicants for DACA must have been under 16 upon arrival to the United States. As recipients, they are able to obtain jobs and driver’s licenses, as well as pay income tax (CNN).

“DACA was an executive action put into place under [President] Obama in 2012,” senior Claire Devine said. “DACA only protected those who arrived in the U.S. before 2007 and before they turned 16. DACA recipients also weren’t able to receive federal financial aid, and were not eligible for social security.”

According to government officials, these undocumented individuals may be eligible for deportation by March 2018. Following the announcement of the rescindment, President Donald Trump said that “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system” encouraged his decision (The New York Times).

President Trump immediately instructed Congress to act via Twitter, suggesting he is looking for rapid results regarding the removal of the act.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, referred to undocumented immigrants as “political hockey pucks” while condemning President’s Trump’s decision. Dolan also said that the rescindment was the “wrong way” to go about immigration policy.

Dolan’s sentiment was also reflected in other Catholic leaders; Father Timothy Kesicki, the president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, said that “we commit ourselves to living out God’s law…remembering that our ancestors in faith were once strangers in a foreign land.”

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops described the rescindment as “unacceptable” (Huffington Post).

DACA hits close to home for many, even some members of the Jesuit community.

“[DACA] affects people in our own community,” senior Anna Rask said. “We have DACA students at Jesuit, and there are likely doctors, lawyers and people of other professions in our community [who] could lose their careers or education.”

Some Jesuit students have stepped up to raise awareness of the decision to the school community.

“The children and adults affected by the recent DACA decision are our friends, our classmates, and they could have been us,” Devine said.

The Christian Service office hosted a series of brown bags to inform the student body about the implications of President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA. Rask, Devine, and seniors Judy Pacheco and Chantal Reyes gave an informational presentation about DACA. Afterwards, alum JJ Gonzalez, an immigration lawyer, answered questions about the consequences of the decision.

“It’s important to remember that DACA recipients have, for the most part, lived in the U.S. for their entire lives, [which is] mandated under the requirements for receiving DACA,” Devine said. “Being able to participate in society would not be possible if they were deported back to a place they have no memory of or do not identify with.”

The DACA decision presents to Jesuit, as a Catholic institution, an opportunity to examine closer the implications on real people that certain government policy can have.

“I think in any of this we’re always trying to say, ‘What’s the human factor?’” Christian Service Director Scott Powers said. “That’s always what we’re trying to do in our office. Service is about a person in front of me, it’s not about a piece of legislation.”

Students have also done research on ways to help those affected by the decision.

“It’s important to call your Congresspeople and tell them to support the DREAM Act,” Devine said. “[It] would actually provide a viable path to citizenship in contrast to DACA, which only deferred deportation.”

If students want a script to call their Congresspeople, they can pick one up in the Diversity Office. Information on Congresspeople can be found on govtrack.org.

“It’s important to have at least a cursory idea of what decisions our national government is making,” Rask said. “Becoming knowledgeable on political and social issues is step one of being a steward of social justice.”

Keeping in mind one of the Jesuit values of being committed to doing justice, certain Jesuit students and staff will continue to push for awareness and education regarding DACA.

“I think any time, if you want to become an advocate and work for change, educating yourself is the number one thing you can do,” Powers said. “Be able to speak intelligently and coherently on both sides of an issue, and then really make an informed conscious choice.”