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ICYMI: Reminders of What DACA Means and the Lessons All Americans Can Learn

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 ICYMI: Reminders of What DACA Means and the Lessons All Americans Can Learn

Two new opinion pieces focused on the lessons of DACA – and the ways that Dreamers tapped into deep American values in their advocacy – are powerful reads offering an important contrast to President Trump’s continued efforts to stoke divisiveness and anti-immigrant sentiment. Indeed, home is here in the land that shaped these formidable advocates for a “more perfect union.”

  • Jin Park, a Harvard Medical Student and Dreamer, writes for The Atlantic about the activism DACA recipients engage in being central to the ideals of the Constitution in “DACA Isn’t What Made Me an American”:

…At all levels of society, in communities across the country, in every profession, and in government, we show up. We show up to question political authority, and partake in public deliberation about issues that deeply affect our lives.

…We use the law, the media, grassroots organizing, and the legislative process not only because we seek to move the country to deliver on its aspirations, but also because it is the vehicle through which we humanize our lives and the lives of those we hold dear. It is the way we individualize our lives, thus resisting the ways in which the political process often homogenizes our experiences.

Precisely because we don’t have access to the established channels of the political process—the ability to vote or run for office, for example—our activism demands an exceptional commitment to an America made better by persistent action that stirs the sentiments of the community. For this reason, we seek to be recognized not as a depraved faction destructive of the common good, but as full Americans—part and parcel of the body politic. When DACA recipients argue that “home is here,” we are also saying that we are part of a whole.

Our activism is therefore an act of hope.”

  • Jorge Ramos’s latest Univision column profiles four leading Dreamer advocates whose courage, testimonials, and intelligence helped win DACA protections in the first place and keep them intact in recent years: Erika Andiola, Gaby Pacheco, Lorella Praeli, and Cristina Jimenez. “Dreamers, or a lesson in how to lose fear”:

…Their parents brought them to the United States as children, and at some point in their adolescence they realized they were undocumented. Far from remaining quiet, they embraced their identity and came out fighting. They wanted to be recognized as what they are, a part of the United States. The problem is that they needed a piece of paper to prove it.

…Since the 2001 terrorist attack, the United States has become increasingly hostile to foreigners. The adults learned to remain silent, to become almost invisible, to survive. But the Dreamers quickly rejected that culture of silence and replaced it with one of activism, vocal and rebellious. In plain English, “in your face.” Mexico-born Erika Andiola, for example, confronted then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner while he had breakfast at a Washington cafeteria. “The first step is always to lose the fear,” Erika declared much later.

…One group of four students started to walk from Miami to Washington on Jan. 1 2010 to protest the situation they faced. The risk was enormous. “It was the first time we did something like that,” Gaby Pacheco, born in Ecuador, told me years later. “But we were not going to be afraid any more.”

It is unjust to mention only Erika, Gaby, Lorella and Cristina in this column, because it was literally thousands of Dreamers who won that historic decision in the Supreme Court, which allows them, for now, to remain protected in the United States. But the fight is not over.

President Trump, in a Tweet full of spite, wrote, “These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”

If Trump had won, today there would be another 700,000 or so people at risk of deportation. In contrast, Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for the presidency, has said he would send a proposal to Congress on his first day in the White House to permanently legalize the Dreamers. The election will be on Nov. 3.

In the meantime, the biggest lesson of this historic ruling by the Supreme Court is that the first step is always to recognize fear, in order to overcome it later. When silence is not an option, marvelous things can happen.