Guest columnist by: Daniel Espiritu
What is to be said about America, a nation founded on the belief “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” when it gets to selectively decide for whom these rights will be ensured?
On Sept. 5, the White House announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). There are common misconceptions that DACA gives undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship, that it will encourage more immigrants to illegally bring their children and that it protects undocumented criminals from being deported.
However, according to the memorandum issued by then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in June 2012, DACA only has two objectives: to protect eligible childhood arrivals from being deported and to grant them biannually renewable work permits.
The memorandum defines childhood arrivals as individuals who came to the U.S. under the age of 16, have resided here since 2007, are currently in school, have obtained a high school diploma or GED or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military, have a clean criminal record and are under the age of 30. It also states: “This memorandum confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.”
This memo deconstructs misconceptions around DACA. Those approximate 787,580 individuals, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who were protected under DACA weren’t being granted a path to legal immigration status, aren’t uneducated, and aren’t likely to commit crimes. DACA doesn’t encourage people to bring their children to the U.S. believing that they will be protected.
Many believe that DACA worsens unemployment and harms taxpayers. However, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated that DACA-eligible individuals contribute around $2 billion in taxes annually. Additionally, DACA-eligible individuals pay, on average, 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes,” according to the institute. This is higher than the average 5.4 percent paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
Also, economist Scott Sumner, the director of the program on monetary policy at George Mason University asserted, in a submission to the Library of Economics and Liberty, that an increase in the size of the population doesn’t denote a shortage in labor because there’s an increased demand for products and services. There’s no evidence to suggest that immigration contributes to unemployment.
However, we must keep in mind that immigration in the U.S. is neither a political nor an economic issue; it’s a human rights issue. When I heard the news about DACA, I didn’t think about political tension, unemployment or taxes. It was the faces of friends, family members, coworkers and classmates that tugged at my heartstrings.
Think back to grade school when your teachers asked you to dream big. America, they told you, is the land of the free. America, they told you, is the greatest country in the world, because it fosters excellence and ingenuity in young minds. America, they told you, is great because it is devoted to ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Remember the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of the American dream, and its words etched into history and branded onto our hearts: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Remember the sense of pride you took in this country, and consider that some of the students who were sitting to your left and right are now having this pride torn from their hands.