By Francisco Valencia
This past summer, I had one day just come home from work, when my family members informed me that president Obama had announced an executive order that would help many undocumented youth like me. My thoughts were that finally those of us studying and working to achieve a better life were going to be able to receive some sort of recognition and help us realize the American dream in the country we grew up.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as “DACA,” is a federal program designed to give young immigrants like me the opportunity to assert our identities and our great desire to be a part of the greater national identity of this nation. We are people who work alongside you to make our local economies grow. Yet many young undocumented immigrants still live in the shadows. DACA is a small step towards helping us achieve a greater national consensus on immigration reform, one that I hope one day will lead to the passage of the DREAM act.
So why aren’t more people applying to DACA? DACA sounds like a great program for undocumented youth, yet it has its limitations, which might be the cause of the decrease in applicants. Immigrant advocates think the filing fee is too high for some applicants thus they won’t be able to apply. If an attorney is needed then an additional amount is also needed. Also, DACA is not permanent and only lasts two years. Only Congress can create a program that would set the path to legal permanent resident status or citizenship. So DACA does not grant a pass to legal status, which is why we need the passage of the DREAM act.
The New York Times recently highlighted how young immigrants are coming out of the shadows and becoming more involved in helping to push forward a solution to the immigration problem. According to the New York Times, roughly 600 leaders met in a meeting in Kansas City, Missouri to continue to push and organize a way to put pressure on the White House and Congress to pass the DREAM Act in a version that isn’t watered down like the current bills going through Congress right now like the STEM Act and the ACHIEVE Act. Many of the young leaders that will be attending still don’t have legal status. This meeting focused on the current immigration fight.
The Republicans have introduced their own version of the DREAM Act, called the STEM Act. So why is this bill being voted against by Democrats? This bill would limit the dreams of DREAMers to be only those that achieve in the math and sciences. Yet they are promoting it as though it solves the problem and advances the goals of DREAMers, when all it does is provide political rhetoric for Republicans to use come election time. The fact is, not everyone wants to pursue a degree in math or the sciences. The Republican version would automatically reject so many DREAMers. We need the DREAM act to pass because once qualified we would be eligible for a 6 year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service. Here is the President’s position on the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would have been passed by Congress in 2010 except for a Senate Republican filibuster that made the act—that passed the House—dead on arrival, which Common Cause and some DREAMers and House Democrats are currently filing suit to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of the Senate filibuster in its current form.
I applied to DACA for many reasons. The main reason is because I want to provide the best for my new family and expand my opportunities in society. My job requires driving to multiple places and I cannot achieve that because I do not have a license. Something as simple as this can increase my wage and the wages of others. Finishing my college degree and being able to work in that field would also be something that I would want to pursue. It is for this reason that I applied to DACA and hope one day for a more lasting solution gets passed by Congress with the help of the people.