By Cristian Saldivar
They came to the United States with innocence and dreams, but they grew up knowing it didn’t matter if they felt American. Without documentation, their days in the country were counted.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced it would rescind the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) policy, with a six month delay to give Congress a chance to come up with a better immigration policy for the 800,000 young immigrants that qualify for it.
DACA was an American immigration policy established in 2012 by the Obama administration and allowed minors who entered the country temporary deferred action from deportation.
In Florida, there are over 33,000 people who have been granted work permits under the DACA policy, which may be renewed every two years.
This allowed them to get a driver’s license, but most importantly, it provided tranquility and protection against deportation. That feeling of safety is now gone.
USF St. Petersburg Real Talk hosted by Multicultural Activities Council tackled this and other immigration issues.
Held in the Palm room of the University Student Center, a group of students cleared up stigmas and stereotypes associated with immigration and undocumented immigration.
“I am disappointed that the current President is ending a program that made people who have grown up in this country feel safe.” said Diana Estrada, who is the executive director of MAC at the Real Talk.
She also mentioned feeling empathy for those previously protected by DACA.
“The anxiety provoked by the uncertainty about whether or not they will be able to stay in the only country they’ve ever known must be unbearable,” she said.
She believes there needs to be more forums or discussions in general on campus with those who don’t understand or have their own biases.
“I do believe we need more forums like this on campus; in fact, that is why MAC hosts Real Talks and collaborates with other organizations such as Ignite and Big Sisters of Psychology to put together open forums for students, faculty, and staff.”
There is great support for DACA from the likes of Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, even Barack Obama came out and spoke about what a mistake it would be to let these 800,000 individuals down.
These individuals, who aren’t felons, who are contributing to the economy and paying taxes, who trusted the government by coming out of the shadows. It will be a couple of dark months of waiting to see what happens, but hopefully there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
We must not remain silent about this, we must speak up and do what is right. Just because it isn’t us this time, doesn’t mean that next time injustice won’t be towards us. Think back to a time when you were little and your parents made a choice for you, because they wanted to better your life.
These individuals were brought here, in almost every occasion without a say. They’ve grown up here, forgotten their native tongues; they’re soldiers, straight A students, hard workers, and most importantly as American as the first immigrants that came here.
We need individuals like those who are here under DACA in our society, because not only do they not harm, but they make communities better. We need to speak up, we need to converse, we need to tell their stories, and we need DACA or something better.
“The goal can never be to change someone’s mind because it’s just not always realistic. However, there is something to be said about students feeling like they have a voice and, hopefully, walking away having learned something from each other.”
Information for this article was gathered from The Tampa Bay Times and CNBC.
Header photo courtesy of Rhododendrites