Understanding DACA: An Interview With a ‘Dreamer’
On September 5, 2017, Trump was pressured by Texas state legislators, in addition to nine other conservative states, to end DACA, now leaving the Dreamers vulnerable to deportation.
Standing for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA is a policy that provided safety to minors who entered the country illegally (likely with their parents) to be immune from deportation for two years, in addition to being eligible for a work permit. The group of people who are protected by this policy are often referred to as “Dreamers.”
Started by Barack Obama in 2012, the DACA program was introduced as a temporary amnesty as a follow-up to the stalled DREAM Act–an act introduced in 2001 that was supposed to give these children a path to citizenship. While Mexicans are often reluctantly put on center stage when it comes to undocumented immigrants, Indians are actually the fastest growing undocumented immigrant population in the US. DACA covers approximately 800,000 individuals and of this population, there are over 27,000 Asian Americans (including 5,500 Indians and Pakistanis) who have already received DACA, according to SAALT (South Asian American Leading Together).
We wanted to spend some time with a Dreamer to better understand their path, what brought them to America, and clear up common misconceptions about immigrants not following protocol for a path to citizenship.
How old were you when you came to the United States?
I was 13 when I came to the USA with my parents.
Since then, can you talk a little bit about what’s it’s been like since you’ve moved here?
Living in the Midwest, high school was never an issue. The real challenges started when I turned sixteen. At that time I couldn’t apply for Driver’s Licence. Then when college applications started, I was not able to get any help from the government and could not apply for any financial assistance. I worked a low paying job to pay for my tuition, and after receiving my degree, I couldn’t apply to any American companies to showcase my education or talent.
If your status were to be stripped away, do you have another place to call home?
I don’t have another place to call home. My parents do have a house in India, but I haven’t been back since I moved here which was 18 years ago. My parents came to America to give their kids a better lifestyle and education.
A lot of people have misconceptions about Dreamers and their parents being here without following the systems or rules. Is that true? Can you explain some of the misconceptions around this?
There are many factors involved in this process. In my case, my parents are now permanent residents and followed all the steps required to citizenship. I am the one without status.
How does DACA help? Will this give you a path to automatic citizenship?
DACA opened many doors. I was able to get a driver’s license, work at an American organization, and contribute to the economy, and to the community who gave me an education. DACA doesn’t give automatic citizenship since it is not a law. It may take another 6 to 7 years to become a citizen if DACA (or the Dream Act) becomes a law.
Some people things of DACA as Unconstitutional, what are your thoughts on this? What do you see as a viable future solution?
I don’t think it is unconstitutional. It was an assistance provided by President Obama. It has to become a law for Dreamers like me to continue to contribute to the economy. I think a viable solution is to give DACA students some sort of permanent status. I think all Dreamers would be okay if citizenship is not immediately available to them.
The economic impact of DACA recipients shows that 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients, and 97 percent are currently employed or enrolled in school, according to an extensive survey done by Tom K. Wong of UC San Diego.
What are your thoughts on the DACA and the Dream Act? Share with us in the comments section below.