By Bill Mefford
As I write this, Tuesday morning the 5th, we are preparing to hear the announcement that donald trump will be ending DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) after a period of six months. There is absolutely no reason why this program should end, which is why you have seen such a variety of voices calling for it's continuation. The only reason for it's eventual demise is simply because trump and his base of supporters do not like the skin tone of most DACA recipients. If DACA recipients were all from Ireland there would be no argument. But ending the program seems to be what they want and what they want will cause the United States to lose billions of dollars in taxes, not to mention the earning potential of DACA recipients as they have gotten jobs and achieved advanced degrees during the five years that DACA has been in place.
Thus, you have groups like the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, Republican congressional leaders - even wallflowers like Speaker Paul Ryan who has been timid to say the least in his deference to trump - all come out against trump's expected plan to end DACA. But I have one reason why we should not only extend DACA, we should immediately grant full citizenship to all DACA recipients (not to mention most undocumented immigrants, though that is a different blog post): DACA recipients are who we should be. This is who we as a country should aspire to follow.
I will always remember back in December of 2010 when I was working with the United Methodist Church and we worked closely with DREAMers in trying to pass the DREAM Act, which would have given DREAMers a road to citizenship. We got within 5 votes of passage in the Senate, one of the most crushing legislative defeats I have ever been a part of.
But it was the fight to see it pass the Senate that lasted throughout the fall that will always stand out to me. DREAM Act students began a campaign called "Undocumented and Unafraid," signaling their intention to make their presence known in local communities and on the national level. It was they and not the typical DC immigrant rights groups that led the struggle to pass the DREAM Act. Every day for months they were on the Hill, meeting with Senators and their staffs and they led the strategy meetings for who was needed to reach which members. It was absolutely incredible to watch. The role of the faith community was considered key and so we did numerous fly-in's to DC with faith leaders and to be honest, United Methodists led the way.
I remember one Thursday afternoon in December, just before the vote, the faith community decided we needed to get faith leaders from 8 states to fly in on that next Monday to do meetings on the next day, a Tuesday. While other faith groups were scrambling to find any faith leaders who could make such a quick trip on a moments' notice I located United Methodist leaders from all 8 states within 4 hours. That's how engaged the folks I worked with at that time were, and that is how much inspired we all were by the DREAM Act students.
This is who we should aspire to be, not only as activists and organizers, but as a country. It was DREAM Act students who led the fight and who we all tried to keep up with. Their commitment to one another, their ability to utilize their assets to achieve the goals they strive towards in creative and transformative ways, and their fearlessness, putting their very lives on the line considering they were in constant danger of being deported; all are values we need desperately in this country and in our movements for justice.
It is not what extending DACA can do for our country and communities that we should worry about. We need to extend DACA and grant immediate citizenship to all DACA recipients because they are who we should all aspire to be. In the end, it is not us granting something as much as us recognizing the best among us and ensuring that we respond appropriately.
While we are currently stuck with "leaders" like donald trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell, it is DACA recipients who we should be looking to if we hope to move forward. I will follow them.