Last Saturday, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) sent an email to the entire student body regarding students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. The message, amid rising hate crimes and hate speech across the country, is refreshing, and it needs to reverberate across all levels of campus, including the administration.
The DACA program was created by executive action under the Obama administration in order to give “deferred action status” to people who fit the predetermined criteria: they are under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and came to the U.S. under the age of 16, among other specifications.
Since its inception, the program has been met with applause by some for offering the closest thing to citizenship for young people who had little to no decision in their immigration. On the other hand, it has also been condemned by others who suggest the program was improperly established, is unconstitutional and perpetuates “illegal” immigration.
We must make a few clarifications that are too frequently left out of the immigration conversation. First, no person is illegal. And, the use of such extreme language only sustains xenophobic behavior. Second, many people are quick to call out undocumented immigrants for not going through the “proper” channels when coming to the U.S.
However, we do not talk about the decades of intervention perpetuated by the U.S. in Latin America that contribute to the masses of people fleeing their countries, which are overrun by gangs, violence or over-exploited resources. Nor do we consider the general nature of “documented” versus “undocumented” immigration. The people crying loudest against immigration are often descended from immigrants themselves, several generations back. Anyone in this country, with the exception of indigenous populations—who, of course, have also suffered brutal policies at our hands—has a history of immigration, and if we apply the same “documented” and “undocumented” vocabulary, likely the latter is the one at play. Requiring extensive documents in order to migrate has been a recent development within the last century, predominantly hurting immigrants of color who are instantly “othered.”
Nor do we discuss that there is no path for an undocumented immigrant to become a citizen. Instead, we offer them the opportunity to play by our rules, by which we may revoke their status at any moment.
And most recently under the Trump administration, we criticize the “illegal entry,” yet it is simply unrealistic for many to use the “legal” ports, most of which have been closed.
But none of this makes the headlines regarding immigration. Instead, it is the story of immigrants “taking over our country.”
The USG message highlighted the response all campus groups should be producing: if you are a DACA recipient, if you are undocumented, we will stand by you and protect you, because you belong here.
The Trump Administration, propping up xenophobia, racism and hate speech, moved to terminate the DACA program on the grounds of constitutionality. The action, quickly protested by a myriad of social justice organizations, has now made its way to the Supreme Court, which will determine its fate, along with that of nearly 700,000 people.
One month ago, over a dozen universities submitted an amicus brief in support of the DACA program, standing by their students and thousands more across the country. Hundreds more universities and presidents have made public statements condemning the action, again in support of DACA. Kent State University partnered with other colleges to introduce the BRIDGE Act, which would “alleviate immediate concerns regarding student status” while immigration reform was being considered in Congress.
In 2017, immediately after the Trump administration endangered the DACA program, CWRU also released a statement supporting all students and reassuring the admission process would remain non-discriminatory. The university signed petitions and tried to make their position clear—all are welcome at our university.
As the hearing of the DACA program before the Supreme Court approaches, we as a university, a student body, an administration and a community must continue to emphasize our support of immigrants, especially those whose status is in grave danger under this administration.
To all DACA students, we stand by you.