Hawkeyes for DREAM Iowa, Emiliano Martinez, speaks before a hundreds strong crowd of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals supporters at the Old Capitol Building on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. The recent decision to rescind DACA has been a highly controversial issue in national politics. (James Year/The Daily Iowan)

Kumar: Congress needs to stand up for DREAMers

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Although the administration has ended DACA, congress needs to propose policies that protect DREAMers and immigrants.

By Michelle Kumar

michelle-kumar@uiowa.edu

 

This past week, President Trump decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Instead of defending DACA, we need to focus on implementing policies, such as the DREAM Act, that specifically help DREAMers, those eligible for DACA, and other qualified immigrants.

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was proposed in 2001. Even today, it has strong support from both sides of the aisle. The act creates a pathway to legal status, and many requirements for the DREAM Act overlap with those of DACA.

In 2001, my family arrived to the United States in hopes of a better future. It took us years to get my mom a visa, and after appealing to senators, she finally received one. In comparison, I can’t imagine the sacrifices parents of DREAMers had to make. The compassion that was shown to us is the reason we are here today.

I just wonder where that compassion is for DREAMers and their families, who are no different from my family. Almost every day, my mom tells me to work hard and give back to a country which has and can continues to give us so much, just like many parents of DREAMers do. DREAMers had no choice in coming here and now this is their home.

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Some argue that by coming here, DREAMers and their families ignore the problems of where they originate. What’s easy to forget is they didn’t have the privilege of our quality of life. More and more in this globalized world, other countries’ problems are ours. Often, our policies contribute to the state of their countries as well.

DREAMers pay taxes, put themselves through higher education and fill our workforce. You take them out of the equation, and our country loses too. We lose money, we lose morality, and we lose what it means to be American. Now, many of you can say these people are not American, but what does it mean to be American, if not to embody the values of our country?

This federal issue affects us right here in Iowa. According to USCIS, there are about 2,800 DACA recipients in Iowa. In July 2017, the Center for American Progress estimated there were 2,434 DACA workers. The center also claims Iowa will lose $188,481,274 in GDP. Imagine what that looks like nationwide.

The reason I’m not behind DACA is because it delays the inevitable. We are forcing people to live life in a constant limbo. We should be focused on making a pathway to legal status for these individuals.

Although states are suing the administration, I don’t believe this is the right course of action. Legally, the future of DREAMers and immigrants are in congress’ hands. The only way that future can be secure is if we make the process to legally arrive and be eligible for naturalization easier.

RELATED: UI community ‘stands in solidarity’ with DACA students

I’m not saying we scale back on background checks and lower our standards. I’m saying the immigration system is flawed and complicated–it’s why so many try to come here illegally in the first place.

People come here for the American dream–the dream of equal opportunity for all, the chance to start from nothing and gain something. That dream is why many of your ancestors immigrated here years ago.

There’s enough of the American dream to go around if we play our cards right and eliminate the “us versus them” mentality. That’s easier said than done, but we have to start somewhere. This means advocating for positive immigration reform and giving DREAMers a pathway to legal status by passing the DREAM Act.

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