I can’t imagine fleeing from my home in terror. Nor can I fathom being forced to acclimate to a completely new environment, feeling that the only way to provide for my family, to ensure my children’s survival, is to uproot them from all that’s familiar.
That is an immigrant’s tale, a concept I can only wrap my mind around with effort. But given the President’s action to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, program this week, I feel I should consider this scenario, no matter how far outside my experience it is.
Some of these 800,000 or so children of immigrants have never even seen the countries they may be deported to. Some can’t speak the language, nor do they know what they likely should about their ancestral cultures in order to make a life outside the U.S. It would be like dropping me in India, with its dozens of regional languages, and expecting that because I like spicy food, I could survive.
That’s a rather flip analogy, and please understand I know levity is completely inappropriate. I can’t imagine what a horrible shock this must be. A bit like having the ground beneath your feet shaken by a sudden, near apocalyptic event.
What must these people be feeling? There’s likely a boat load of worry, fear, anger. I’m sure I’m missing a good dozen descriptors necessary to convey the emotional mess they must be suffering. I’ve asked why a dozen times, and I’m not even in danger.
But it is baffling. These once small children who’ve grown into adults, educated themselves, bootstrapped for something greater, saved their money, paid taxes, all with the fervent desire, the American desire, to build a better life for themselves and for their families. And now that dream is in peril.
It’s quite callous, really, almost casual in its cruelty. These people’s freedom is up for grabs, their fate is in someone else’s hands. Not even a someone, discounting the President who initiated this faux civilized witch hunt, their fate is now up to a thing, a body, Congress.
But the real question is, again, why? What is the point? Why the sudden attack on immigrant children? Is it even sudden? What’s the end game? Is this simply another play in a game that began before many of us even knew we were playing?
I’m no pundit, certainly no political wiz. I freely admit I’m what many outside the U.S. might call a stupid American. But maybe this was always on the cards? An implicit action on the promise to make America great again?
But again, what good will come from this? One study released in January from libertarian think tank The CATO Institute suggests this move could cost the U.S. economy $250 billion, and those estimates are allegedly conservative. Economist Ike Brannon, co-author of the study, said in a September 6th DiversityInc piece, that “a repeal or roll-back of DACA would harm the economy and cost the U.S. government a significant amount of lost tax revenue.”
“Most of this high cost is driven by the fact that the ‘dreamers’ tend to do well in school and as a result do well in the job market after they complete their education.”
“The deportation of DACA participants would cost the American economy billions of dollars, as well as billions of tax dollars foregone, while doing little to address the true concerns that Americans may have about unauthorized immigrants,” Brannon said.
Hmmm. So, I have to ask yet again, if the end of DACA rings a kind of death toll for the economy, and it doesn’t actively address the meat of immigrant issues, what is the point? I wonder who will make money from the potential dissolution of DACA? And what’s the fall back plan for all of the jobs that will suddenly be made empty once their owners have been deported? The workplace will suffer in every industry.
And while there is certainly a pool of unemployed talent out there ready to jump into the breach once opportunities present themselves, will they be enough? More importantly, are they adequately trained?
Seasoned conservative, popular pundit and lawyer, Dr. Christopher Metzler, says no and no. When I called him up to ask his opinion he also offered a very practical, very straight forward question for me to consider – why didn’t these people get their paperwork?
It’s a good question, but I suspect the answer is that it’s just not that easy. Since former secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued the DACA memo in 2012, hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants have signed up for legal work permits in addition to DACA’s protection from deportation. Tuesday’s action will allow some of them protection for up to two years, but many could lose the right to work and be subject to immediate deportation starting in early March.
On my last job I supervised two women, one Indian and one Iranian. I remember them occasionally needing to take time off work to attend one immigration-related appointment or another. They jumped through a bevy of legal hoops on their quest to citizenship, and one was even married to an American she met in college; they are still happily married. Six months is an impossibility to get through a process that habitually takes years, especially now that the government has established a hard line on immigration.
But we’ll see if the current boot and rally mentality will win the day, if Congress will uphold former President Obama’s executive order. It brings to mind Langston Hughes poem What Happens To A Dream Deferred?
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Hughes was talking about the African-American experience in the U.S., but the sentiment he shared is entirely applicable to these children of immigrants, aptly called dreamers. They came to the U.S. on a wave of hope. Many pursued the American dream and excelled, earning top academic credentials and the jobs to go along with them. But what will happen to them now?