Last week, President Trump announced his intention to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA protects about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation, allowing recipients to obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in college, and legally secure jobs. Approximately 6,300 of these DACA recipients live in Minnesota.
HECUA’s political commitments to human rights, equality, and access compel us to express our solidarity with DACA recipients (known as Dreamers). The White House decision has provoked fear, uncertainty, outrage, and anguish for Dreamers and their families, including HECUA students and alumni. We are deeply troubled by the possible revocation of DACA and echo the call of grassroots and higher education leaders for the U.S. government to uphold, continue, and/or expand DACA.
Among other consequences, the dismantling of DACA would limit Dreamers’ access to higher education, increase their vulnerability to exploitation by employers, and greatly diminish their life chances. In the worst case scenario, this decision would deport young people who know no home other than the United States. Masahiro Sugano’s documentary, Cambodian Son, offers a compelling and illuminating account of one man’s experience of deportation to Cambodia – a country his family fled before he was born. Sagano’s film highlights as well the vulnerability of immigrants and refugees who fall outside of the (non-Black) Latinx-centered national immigration conversation. Among the groups most at risk of deportation are the approximately 565,000 Black undocumented immigrants in the United States who are disproportionately profiled by both the criminal justice and immigration systems.
Like many of our colleagues in higher education, we could speak to the positive impact of DACA on our students, organization, institutional partners, and communities. However, we believe that upholding or expanding DACA is a basic human rights issue, and that Dreamers should not have to pass an economic or academic litmus test. No one should be expected to meet white middle class notions of respectability in order for the U.S. government to honor its promises. Where our nation lands on this issue will tell us a great deal about our ethical and democratic ambitions. In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opened his famous “I Have a Dream” speech by indicting America for defaulting on its debts of justice. King declared, “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.”
It is time to call America out before it defaults on another promissory note, DACA. Holding Dreamers responsible for circumstances over which they had no responsibility would be an injustice, reinforcing a creeping culture of cruelty and disposability in the United States.
Many Dreamers’ parents were working people displaced by NAFTA, neoliberalism, and U.S. foreign policy. If we are to diminish the global inequalities and violence that often propel immigrants and refugees toward our borders, we will need to reckon with and take responsibility for this history and contemporary political-economic reality. In the short term, we encourage others to mobilize around the assault on DACA and ask Congress to act quickly to pass legislation to uphold DACA as part of a complete reimagining of the entire U.S. immigration system.
Resources for action and support:
A list of lawmakers to contact:
The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota is running a DACA helpline:
Cosecha is a network of volunteer organizers mobilizing in support of DACA:
If you have resources to add to the list, please email lohmans <at> hecua.org. We will keep an updated list of resources in a blog post on the HECUA website.
Executive Director, HECUA
with HECUA staff and faculty