DACA: An Unkind Cut

DACA: Behind the Letters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The day after Labor Day, the U.S. Attorney General announced that the executive branch was canceling an Obama administration initiative called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA for short.  This change comes in the context of angry conversations around immigration to the United States, and at Feel Like You Belong, we needed to weigh in with some data and a calm voice.


Poster from Hartnell College

To first understand the context, this continent has a 500-year history of immigration, which started with western Europeans.  As more Europeans heard about the abundance of fertile land and great opportunity, they left their homes and extended families to try their luck as immigrants to North America.

Over the following centuries, word got out across the globe, and adventurous peoples from other countries took a gamble and journeyed to this new world as well. Very often, the newcomers were not well accepted. Workers from China were recruited only to build the great transcontinental railroad, but as soon as that work was done, Congress passed a law excluding more Chinese from coming because they didn’t want the country becoming less white and European looking.


The earliest settlers from England were Protestant Christians, so the Puritan culture was especially pronounced in the early years of European colonization. Later, then, when victims of the Great Irish Potato Famine started coming over, there were strident citizen voices against those “papists” as they were called, followers of the Catholic Pope. Signs went up in businesses, "No Irish Need Apply" for jobs there.


If you fast-forward to today, we have removed the anti-Chinese legislation—and thankfully so, given all that Chinese immigrants have contributed to American arts, business, and academic life.  Likewise, John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, was elected president, and we no longer hear people being barred from jobs because they are Irish or Catholic. They are now mainstream Americans and a part of our everyday fabric.


Let’s see how this history applies today. 

The young children who came to the United States along with their undocumented parents were promised by President Obama that they could stay in the country to continue their education and their lives.  They were eligible for the DACA program if they arrived by age 15 and had lived in the country since 2007. DACA allowed them to get driver’s licenses, which allowed them to go to work or to school, like all other residents their age.  In short, it allowed them to come out of living in the shadows and to participate fully in their local communities.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with DACA recipients in his home.

Under the new executive order, that protection will disappear in six months.  This means these young people could be deported to countries they hardly know.

What do we know about the DACA recipients, who are also called “Dreamers”?

  • There are roughly 800,000 Dreamers who are affected.
  • They serve in all facets of American life, working in the military, in schools, in nursing homes, and a myriad other places that benefit your neighbors and family and community.
  • They often have part-time jobs to pay for school tuition and support their families.
  • They pay taxes. And they contribute the national economy.
  • They do not take away jobs from native-born Americans.
  • According to Grand Rapids immigration attorney Susan Im, eliminating DACA could cost $433 billion in GDP over a decade and reduce Social Security and Medicare tax contributions by $24.6 billion over that same period.  
  • Dreamers speak English as their most fluent language. 
  • They have lived most of their lives in the United States.
  • They love the U.S. as their homeland.
  • They are not trying to change American culture.
  • They are pursuing the American dream as your grandparents and great-grandparents did.

To educate yourself more about DACA, click here to visit the government website.

In summary, human beings have migrated globally for thousands of years. They moved for all kinds of reasons, including drought and fire, floods and wars and hurricanes.  Many moved for better opportunities.  And though the first generations did not speak the new local language well, their children, like little sponges, soaked up the nuances of conversation and culture as readily and eagerly as the offspring of families with multi-generation histories here.


This is the very nature of our humanity. To upset the continuity of these bright dreams, in our view, is both short-sighted and mean-spirited.  We urge our viewers to contact their national representatives today to put forward comprehensive immigration reform that will ensure access and the American Dream for anyone willing to work for it.


photo source: New York Times

Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.