By Ana Marie Argilagos
When my family emigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1961, my mom trusted that we would be OK. She trusted that my family was making the right choice moving to a country that promised us opportunity and freedom from fear. It is because of my family’s trust in America that I was able to thrive—allowing me to make contributions that positively impact the quality of life for all of our country’s citizens. My parents’ sacrifice, coupled with the support of our new community, allowed me to pursue a better life, liberty, and happiness.
Over 50 years later, 800,000 young people, and their families, also trusted us. They trusted that we didn’t blame them for arriving here, as children, without documentation. They trusted that we valued their talents and dreams. Since 2012, these young people trusted that their fellow Americans would collectively defend and protect them. Sadly, yesterday we failed them. The announcement rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—or DACA—brought a return of fear, uncertainty, and the shadows that have haunted the lives of 800,000 young people in our country. This is unacceptable.
DACA provided young people, who are undocumented and arrived in this country as children, the opportunity to come out of the shadows. DACA gave these young people hope that after having spent their lives as Americans, they would finally be seen as Americans. These young people have become known as “Dreamers” not because of their dreams to be fully accepted as citizens of this great country, but because of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), a bipartisan bill proposed and sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch in 2001.
After the implementation of DACA, and probably for the first time in their lives, these young Dreamers were able to join their classmates and their neighbors to become more fully engaged in the only country they have ever known. DACA Dreamers trusted our government by stepping out of the shadows, and in return we promised them a chance to work, study, and live without fear of deportation for two years at a time.
The decision to rescind DACA was an attack on hundreds of thousands of youth who are excelling in our schools and workplaces and who are contributing to our economy. The decision was not based on national security, economics, or policy. It was based on something much more dangerous to our country: a flawed sense of nationalism that begins with exclusion and endangers our democracy at every turn.
Prior to yesterday’s announcement, leaders and citizens of our country came together and spoke out in defense of DACA and in support of Dreamers. Business, civic, and religious leaders came together to urge the new Administration to keep DACA. But it did not, and has instead put the burden on Congress to develop a solution.
Today, we in the philanthropic sector—and representing a cross section of business, civic, and nonprofit organizations—ask you to join us in urging Congress to move swiftly and definitively on protecting the 800,000 Dreamers in our country that are now very vulnerable. We ask Congress to take measures to protect the information on Dreamers contained in the DACA database, and that Congress draft and pass a legislative measure to make the U.S. a safe place for those childhood arrivals that know no other home. Please add your name to HIP’s letter to Congress, and use your voice to defend the voiceless by rallying your community to do the same.