As an equity scholar and a professor whose classrooms have included undocumented students, I have one overriding response to President Trump’s announcement that he’s ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program: The decision simply cannot be allowed to stand—and we must join together to make sure that it doesn’t.
Anyone who personally knows some of the nearly 800,000 young “dreamers” enrolled in the DACA program knows that, for many of them, being deported to that place that is supposedly back home actually means being given a one-way ticket to a place they have little or no memories of—a place that is probably associated with the horrifying stories their parents told when they recounted why they left to risk it in the United States in the first place. The DACA program was an acknowledgement that anyone who was brought to the United States as a child, who considers him or herself an American and has worked hard to build a future here, doesn’t deserve to be thrown out of this country. Unless Congress acts in the next six months to establish the DACA protections as law, our country’s systems of power will deliver to these dreamers the precise inhumane treatment they do not deserve.
The institution with which I am affiliated, the University of San Francisco, gets it. USF supports inclusivity in all forms, and its first priority is protecting students. A statement from USF President Paul Fitzgerald responded to President Trump’s rescinding of DACA by noting that, “At USF, we are redoubling efforts to support our undocumented students, whether or not they are in the DACA program.”
We must find strength in statements like this one. In other words, though the news of President Trump’s move on DACA is so disheartening because it does have the power to impact so many people’s and families lives, it’s crucial to also remember that by leveraging the power of our communities, institutions, and collective voices, we also possess a power to push against this. But we need to think creatively about how.
A good place to start is by thinking about the groups, organizations, and businesses with which you are affiliated. Because I work at a university, for example, I can lend my voice and resources to strengthen the efforts underway within USF. The university has created an endowment, called The Magis Scholarship Fund, specifically for undocumented students. Everyone who is part of the USF community – students, faculty, staff, and alumni – should give to this fund as a way of building its reach.
What else can universities do on this issue? A good way to think about it is, what specific power do these institutions (or your institutions) have to move the needle – and what power do they confer on those associated with them? We can reach out to media outlets, we can join together for demonstrations and direct actions, we can consider how research resources and funding can be brought to bear to improve the situation that has been created. And the brainstorming should continue.
Now is the time to stand up and declare what our values are, and to stand united with – and for – the young people who find their circumstances threatened because of the elimination of this program. Our effort must be a nationwide one, and even a global one—and we should take heart in the fact that voices from around the world have already spoken out against President Trump’s recent action on DACA. But that global reaction must be cultivated, and strengthened, and drawn out until the dreamers are protected once again.
We cannot be known as the generation that stood by and watched this happen without putting up a real fight. The fact is, if March comes and the dreamers are forced to leave the country, the ripple effects of families being ripped apart will extend far and wide. There is simply nothing to be gained by passively allowing this to happen – and so much to lose. Let’s act.