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On the Fifth Anniversary of DACA, A Reminder of the Victory and the Continued Fight

 

Across the nation, nearly 800,000 DACA-recipients, beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) today celebrate the fifth anniversary of DACA – an unmitigated success that has benefited not only the men and women who were able to obtain it, but also their families, schools, employers, and communities.

As America’s Voice Education Fund’s Van Le recaps in a new blog post, “DACA has been one of the immigration reform movement’s greatest victories – and it’s helped Dreamers and their families make contributions that have lifted up America as a whole. As a 2016 report from the Center for American Progress noted:

  • DACA recipients are making significant contributions to the economy by buying cars and first homes, which translate into more revenue for states and localities in the form of sales and property taxes.
  • Some are even using their entrepreneurial talents to help create new jobs and further spur economic growth by starting their own businesses.
  • DACA increased recipients’ average hourly wages by 42 percent.
  • 95 percent of survey respondents are currently employed or enrolled in school.
  • Consistent with the 2015 survey, the data indicate that many DACA recipients are getting better and higher-paying jobs because of DACA. Many are pursuing educational opportunities that were previously unavailable to them.
  • DACA recipients’ economic activity is estimated to add $433.4B to U.S. GDP over a decade”

These are not merely statistics – the numbers represent our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors, including AVEF’s own Juan Escalante, a DACA-recipient. In a new, must-read post for Medium, Juan reviews his accomplishments, which he credits to DACA, and an early meeting with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a longtime immigration advocate.  Juan also reflects on the renewed fight to protect Dreamers and all immigrants in light of the new, hostile administration.

I reached into the small blue folder that I carried into the meeting and retrieved two large pieces of paper that I handed to Senator Durbin.

“I wanted to give you these,” I said “they are copies of my Bachelors and Masters degrees. I would not have been able to complete them had it not been for my deep belief and support in legislation like the DREAM Act or programs like DACA. So, on behalf of my family and I, I wanted to thank you for keeping my hopes and dreams alive.”

Senator Durbin looked at my degrees, thanked me for sharing my story, and promised to keep fighting on behalf of DREAMers as long as he was in Congress. Our meeting concluded, and I departed his office feeling hopeful about my future under the DACA program.

Of course, this was all before Donald Trump was elected president.

On election night, upon seeing the results, I sped home and cried throughout the night – uncertain of what would happen to my family, my friends, or all of the immigrant families who I had helped throughout the years.

Donald Trump’s stance on immigration was clear from the moment he launched his presidential campaign – build a wall along the border with Mexico, cancel the DACA program, and levy a Deportation Force that would deport as many immigrants as possible.

[…]

The challenges that immigrants will face under the Trump Administration will not be easy, but we cannot allow ourselves to sit down and give up. We didn’t win DACA or local pro-migrant policies at the state and local level by cowering in fear, we won them by standing up for what was right and just, for the hard work that immigrants, from all backgrounds, continue to do all across the country we call our home.

Let DACA’s fifth anniversary serve as a reminder of what the program has allowed DREAMers like me accomplish, and what it will do for thousands of young immigrants who are currently in school studying to become the next lawyer, doctor, or entrepreneur that our country needs to become stronger.

For the immigrants and DREAMers reading this, please don’t give up. Your anxiety and fears are valid, but we cannot let them obstruct us from fighting for the opportunity to reach our full potential and honor the sacrifices that our parents made to give us a shot at the American Dream.