By Annaliese Martinez | Contributing Writer

Students and professors express discontent over DACA repeal. (Courtesy of Annaliese Martinez)

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed Donald Trump’s latest racist, xenophobic action with the announcement of the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA. The executive order implemented during the Obama administration offered undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, with deferment of removal action for two years as well as eligibility for work authorization, a driver’s license, and SSN or TIN to pay income taxes. With the news that DACA is being repealed, young undocumented immigrants are panicking, as they are at risk of losing their education, employment, or being deported.

In Tuesday’s briefing, Sessions argued that DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans” by allowing work permits to “illegal aliens,” when in fact, NPR reports that there is no evidence of DACA beneficiaries stealing jobs from American citizens, according to economists. If anything, the American economy benefits from DACA. According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 800,000 recipients, with 222,795 being in California, most of whom participate in the workforce and have professional jobs, as well as pay taxes.

However, the U.S. government should not keep DACA just because it can profit off of the skills and productivity of recipients, but instead, immigrants should have easy access to citizenship because they deserve basic human rights. Just to qualify for DACA benefits, someone must have been brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and be living in the U.S. and under the age 31 as of June 15, 2017. In addition, they must never have had legal status, or they would have  to have their legal status expired by June 15, 2012. A DACA recipient would have had to be currently in school, graduated from high school (or obtained a GED), or  served in the military. They also could not be guilty of a felony, serious misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors, or pose a national security threat.

That’s not all. Someone applying for DACA would have to gather documents to prove they fulfill the aforementioned requirements, fill out U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services forms, and pay a $465 fee. According to law expert Ilona Bray, if someone wanted to become a citizen, they could pay anywhere between $5,000 to $7,000 for an immigration lawyer, $640 for a naturalization application, $85 for biometrics, or pay up to $1,500 for a green card application. Besides spending thousands of dollars, undocumented immigrants seeking legal status could wait years before finally having their application either accepted or declined.

Taking into consideration how difficult it is to be an undocumented immigrant in America shows just how insensitive and discriminatory Trump’s decision to rescind DACA is. While those affected by the DACA repeal include people from South Korea, the Philippines, and other communities of color, it disproportionately affects Latinos, with over 75 percent of DACA recipients being from Mexico.

While Trump has been known to make racist remarks against Mexicans and immigrants, DACA recipients transcend the stereotypes which Trump and his supporters perpetuate. By referring to them as “illegal aliens,” the Trump Administration has portrayed DACA beneficiaries as criminals and foreigners, when they are by all means Americans who contribute to society. Among DACA Dreamers are students and graduates from reputable universities such as USC and UCLA, teachers, newlyweds, or those planning to be married.  Truth be told, Dreamers make America great when many Americans think it would be better without them.

Since the announcement that DACA is being repealed, there has been enormous response in the press, social media, and here on the Saint Mary’s campus. On Wednesday following the announcement, President James A. Donahue issued a statement to all students, staff, and faculty reminding the community of Saint Mary’s dedication to protect students’ rights and its Lasallian Catholic values. Still, some students felt that President Donahue’s statement was not enough because it did not declare Saint Mary’s College as a sanctuary campus, nor did it clearly condemn Trump’s decision. Later that day, students and faculty rallied together outside of Dante Hall and the Saint Albert Hall Library wearing black to show solidarity with those affected by the DACA repeal.

“As a society we’ve grown too complacent,” expressed first-year student Donaldo. “I think we can make a change.” For other Saint Mary’s students, the DACA repeal hits too close to home. Hector Mendez shared, “My brother just applied for his DACA and now it’s getting revoked.” In addition to students rallying, faculty and students held their regular justice and peace vigil at the campus Peace Pole to protest the decision to rescind DACA, and clubs and resources, such as Hermanas and the Intercultural Center, extended their support to anyone affected.

While the announcement of the decision to repeal DACA feels like part of an endless series of human rights violations made by Donald Trump, not all hope is lost. Dreamers whose DACA is ending in 2017 can still apply for renewal for deferment for the next two years. Furthermore, people who are already U.S. citizens can use their privilege to speak up for undocumented immigrants, contact their local representatives, or donate to a YouCaring campaign to pay for legal and DACA renewal fees. 

Times like these are pivotal moments in history for civil rights, and it will matter years from now whether we speak up or remain silent. To give up now would be to let Trump win and waste the efforts made by DREAMers and their parents to get this far. DREAMer Anayeli Marcos, who is heartbroken over the repeal of DACA, expresses that she plans to do everything possible to continue to get her education.

“Just because DACA has ended doesn’t mean I have to stop pursuing what I want to do.”

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