The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012. DACA provides a provisional legal cover for approximately 700,000 young immigrants who entered the U.S. as children and lacked a legal immigration status. On Thursday, June 18th, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration’s 2017 attempt to end DACA was unlawful. This ruling was not just a win for DACA recipients but a fleeting signal of hope for America’s 45 million strong immigrant community.
On July 20th, 2015, a sultry summer morning in Hyderabad, India, I waited alongside a couple of hundred people to begin the interview process for a coveted visa to legally enter the United States of America. A month-long marathon of preparation including lawyer consultations, bank statements, and vaccine certificates from doctors culminated a selfless effort by my family and friends to help me build the perfect, undeniable “international student” profile.
After a 3-hour wait, and watching a few rejected applicants, I finally approached the interviewer’s window. The relative ease of the interview caught me by surprise, but I learned later of the high approval rates for F-1 student visas. Potential for lawful behavior and likelihood of returning to one’s home country are the key determining factors for American consulate officials while making visa approvals. This was the first of several challenges for my “legal immigrant” path to the U.S.
At every step of my undergraduate career, I had to consistently perform academically, socially, and in extra-curriculars to be considered equal to my American peers. And the most significant challenge – finding a job – comes at the end. Despite finishing in the top 5% of my class, completing 3 competitive internships, and holding various leadership positions, the “international student” factor was sufficient for companies to turn me down. My elusive American Dream was slipping rapidly and would have ended if it were not for BCforward’s faith in my potential and its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Stories like mine are neither the only, nor the most righteous, immigrant experience. In 2012, President Obama’s launch of the DACA program was a significant step in legalizing the immigration status of nearly 700,000 “Dreamers”. The DACA program upholds core values of the fading American Dream which are implied throughout the Declaration of Independence. Proclamations such as “all people are created equal” and “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have inspired countless generations of immigrants to pursue their own vision of the American Dream.
Americans debating the morality of DACA and criticizing it for supporting undocumented immigrants fail to comprehend the unjust situation thrust upon these Dreamers. Dreamers did not actively choose and were not capable ofcontrolling the outcomes of their life when they “illegally” entered the U.S. Coming to America as children, these Dreamers are culturally ingrained with American values and identity. Deporting them on a legal technicality is not just in direct opposition to the “American Dream” but also quite cruel.
The positive socio-economic benefits of immigration (and DACA specifically) have been well-researched and documented by institutes across the political divide. Furthermore, the oft-cited “crime” arguments against both illegal / legal immigration is baseless and reiterating what has been found by countless non-partisan research outlets is an inessential digression. In the same vein, the highly debated “jobs” argument has been factually contested several times over the years. Documented and undocumented immigrants differ significantly in their ability to and power over making the choice to relocate to America. But when it comes down to basic motive, all immigrants seek to attain their version of the American Dream. Programs like DACA represent the essence of the American Dream. The promise of equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness differentiates America from the rest of the world. This cornerstone of the world’s most influential democracy ignites the hopes of the persecuted, hardworking, and talented immigrants across the world to break free from limitations and contribute to America’s egalitarian society.
Jr. Data Analyst