In Defense of DACA


For those less familiar with the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, here’s a brief summary: The program began in 2012 with an executive order issued by President Obama. It allows for individuals brought to the United States as children to receive deferred action from deportation. DACA recipients pay a significant fee and submit the proper documentation. They must meticulously prove (among other requirements) that: they have a high school diploma, are in school or served in the military; do not have a criminal record; and entered the country before the age of sixteen and have not left since.

In addition to the clear challenge of not being native born in the U.S., non-permanent resident immigrants like DACA recipients bear an inordinate burden, daily. Now, under the Trump Administration, the program is in grave danger. The President has repealed the executive order under the pretense that he wishes for Congress to solidify it into formal legislation. It is hard to know Trump’s true intentions, but regardless, DACA is gone in six months if Congress cannot agree on something.

However, in this editorial, we will aim to address the issue as it applies to Middlebury College. We understand that DACA and immigration is a national issue, but we want to take the conversation beyond divisive Congressional lines and recognize that this issue affects members of this community, whether we know them personally or not — or whether we are even aware of their presence on this campus. Immigration should not be a partisan issue. No one is illegal and everyone has a right to a decent living and the pursuit of happiness. Neither side of our representatives in D.C. have ever been wholly on the moral side of this debate, a point we find valuable when considering the tension this conversation brings.

We, the Editorial board, would like to address the “DACAmented” and undocumented students on campus to make clear that we value your presence in our community and stand with you in this time of uncertainty and fear. We recognize the severity of the end of the program, and want you to know that, despite the actions of the current presidential administration, we believe in your right to live, work, learn and thrive in this country.

We know that belief is often cheap abstraction. It won’t make you feel safer or less vulnerable. It won’t give you the tangible support that you need, and we realize that.

First, we would like to commend college administration for their proactive efforts in supporting “DACAmented” and undocumented students. Although the college may not be in a position of complete power to support and defend these students, we believe the prioritization of this concern is not to be understated. We want to follow the administration’s model and discuss some concrete priorities we see for all levels of the Middlebury College community in supporting immigrants, documented or otherwise, on campus.

The executive order that established DACA was a temporary fix, and the security of Dreamers’ lives here in the United States cannot be ensured short of federal law. We hope for a pronounced legislative effort to permanently solidify some form of the DACA program that guarantee basic and permanent rights for Dreamers. At the Middlebury College level, we encourage all members to participate in the democratic process in the methods to which we are accustomed: writing to our Congressional offices, volunteering with or donating to immigrants’ rights organizations and participating in peaceful protests. We need to show the country that this issue matters to us and that we demand change.

We further hope that the administration will continue to make this issue a priority, even when the primary national focus inevitably shifts elsewhere. Even with a solution for the approximately 800,000 DACA recipients, many undocumented immigrants (some living within our small Middlebury community) will still be left living in fear of deportation, a reality many of us never have to consider. As we move forward in our targeted support of Dreamers, we cannot forget the millions that are left without options. For those that are able, we must leverage our status-based privilege to show our community, both local and national, that we support the rights of immigrants. Moreover, it isn’t enough to merely believe in the value of immigrants; we must take action. We must proudly fight with them to achieve a secure life in this country.