My name is Jasiel Sanchez-Diaz. I am a 20-year-old junior sociology major at the University of Northern Colorado. I am from Boulder, CO, where I have lived the majority of my life. That is, minus the first 6 months I spent in Mexico, where I was born. My first steps, first words, first everything really, were all on American soil. I was brought here illegally as a baby, and because of it I live with the label “undocumented”. This label has meant carrying an invisible burden that has come with many setbacks. I am unable to travel internationally, qualify for healthcare, receive financial aid for my tuition, vote and up until 2012, legally work or receive a driver’s license. On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration, with the pressures of courageous activism from undocumented people and their allies, decreed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In order to even be considered for this program, applicants of DACA have to have come to the United States before their 16th birthday and been in the U.S. on the day the administrative program was announced; have continually resided here since June 15, 2007; have been in school or have recently graduated and most importantly, have never been convicted of a felony or a major misdemeanor. The application itself costs $465, plus whatever the immigration lawyer helping one file for DACA is charging. Work permits granted by the program are valid for two years, and must then be renewed for the same price once more.
One of the most frustrating arguments I’ve seen for those in opposition of DACA and what it stands for, is the question,“Well, why don’t they just become citizens?” This irks me personally because the people asking this question are usually U.S. citizens who have no idea about the complications that applying for citizenship entails. Another Business Insider writer, Michelle Mark wrote a piece to explain this topic and why it is a virtually impossible option. Mark goes on about how many DACA recipients don’t have immediate family members that are citizens and how reluctant employers are to sponsor them. Mark also includes a diagram of how one can be considered for a green card visa or citizenship. It takes a minor glance to realize how selective and challenging it is to apply for citizenship. This process is so challenging, in fact, that it has never been a viable option for me personally.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported this year that almost 800,000 people nationwide received DACA. According to research done by the Center for American Progress: “91 percent of respondents are currently employed. Among respondents age 25 and older, employment jumps to 93 percent.” This means 91 percent of the 800,00 (728,000), are employed and contributing to the economy. Since the possibility of DACA’s removal arose, Skye Gould and Leanna Garfield of Business Insider reported, “over the next decade, the national GDP could take a $460.3 billion hit by rescinding DACA”.
DACA recipients pay taxes and contribute to the economy, all while not receiving benefits such as healthcare, food stamps, federal financial aid and social security. We do, however, still financially contribute so these assets can benefit U.S. citizens. All we request is the opportunity to be here, earn degrees in higher education, work, contribute to society and be treated like human beings. Ultimately, DACA is a win-win for U.S. citizens and DACA recipients alike.
Economics are not the only reason you should care about this issue, however. You should also care because we are humans trying to make the best of inopportune circumstances we inherited. Another frustrating factor I’ve seen in the media is the demonization of our parents for bringing us here illegally in the first place. It’s easy to place the blame on them, since we were not at fault for coming here illegally, but this is really a question of “How far are you willing to give your kids the opportunities they deserve?”
At points in my life, I would also resent my parents’ decision because of all the hardships and adversity I’ve had to face. These include harmful moments like being called “illegal” and having it used as a noun. It really shouldn’t be so out of grasp for some people that no person is “illegal.” There have been and continue to be many more instances of harm, but really all I can keep doing is be grateful for the privileges I do have.
So yes, it was easy for even myself to be angry at my parents for putting me in this situation. But in my spurs of anger, I remember that they made that decision so I could reach milestones I may not have reached otherwise: I was the first in my family to graduate high school, and I’m the first to attend (and soon graduate from) college. My parents, like those of the of the other 800,000 DACA recipients made this decision out of sacrifice, courage and most importantly, love.
The announcement made on Sept. 5 by Jeff Sessions to rescind DACA came as no surprise to me, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t devastating. However, the support I saw for DACA recipients and students here at UNC — and nationwide — has been much more than I could have ever predicted. Having attended the DACA rally that occurred at UNC on Thursday, Sept. 7, I was again reminded of the importance of courage, activism and allyship. Seeing peers, professors, staff and Greeley community members there in support of a once invisible population strengthened a sense of determination in me and renewed my fighting spirit throughout all this strife.
In summation, the removal of program was unnecessary, cruel, and has created/will create more emotional and economic harm than it could ever do good. Immigration policies, among all others, need to be written and considered with a more humanitarian lens. These are people’s lives that are being tampered with. As the reader, whether you are being affected directly the DACA being rescinded, or as an ally, there is one takeaway from the rally you should use to prompt you: DACA rights are human rights.
Jasiel Sanchez-Diaz is a guest writer for The Mirror. He is a junior with a major in sociology.