Imagine. Just imagine that you're a 25-year-old guy having lived his past nineteen years on Maple Street in one of the suburban enclaves of Oakland or San Francisco. You have grown up like any other American kid: going to school, riding bikes with your buds, working at odd jobs and helping your family, volunteering in the community, unfolding the dreams of your future. You have no yearnings for a foreign land; you're an American.
Then you suddenly find yourself in the Philippines at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport. To hitch a bus ride into town, you're getting ready to spend too many of the last few dollars you were able to yank from your bank account. You have the clothes on your back, maybe a duffle bag of personal belongings. You have no family, no friends, no home, no job.
You may know a little Spanish, maybe even a smattering of Tagalog, but not quite enough to ask for simple directions, or find a cheap but safe hotel, or a decent place to eat. You are a Dreamer. But your dreams have been shattered. You have been deported from your American home because the nation's lawmakers couldn't figure out how to deal with your kind.
I have a client, Chris, facing such a dilemma. When it comes down to it, he could possibly be facing life-or-death situations if forced to return to his long-forgotten land of origin. Presently, he is under the protection of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order benevolently provided by former President Obama. That president felt compelled to wield that executive order when a recalcitrant Congress chose not to govern on behalf of youngsters – youngsters who are Americans in every way, except on paper.
The Congress was just too scared to put their political lives on the line by ruling on such a controversial subject. They knew the right thing to do – give these youngsters a solid path to citizenship. But, in a do-nothing mode of governance, which they seem to have perfected over the last eight years or so, they sat on their hands.
Chris is one of the 800,000 facing deportation should DACA be allowed to vanish. These kids and young adults have committed no crime except to innocently follow their parents in search of opportunity and a better life – the American Dream. Trump has vacillated, demanding that Congress come up with legislation. And his attorney general, though all too happy to announce the demise of DACA, has given a do-little Congress six months to find a solution. Don't hold your breath, even though the nation faces bitter loss.
Have a Heart
Yes, Chris and others may be out of luck in a few months. Like many, he is a talented and humble person. He has ambitions of becoming a doctor. He arrived in America from the Philippines at the age of six. (Incidentally, approximately 10,000 Filipino childhood arrivals could be affected if anti-immigrant forces have their way.)
His family was poor but they persevered. His dad took labor-intensive jobs while his mom was the homemaker. Chris has expressed his desire to help those who can’t afford to pay for a doctor. He knows he has a long way to go, but doesn't mind the wait and the hard work to get there.
He continues to go to school and works to help his family. He has never committed a crime and volunteers often at a local homeless shelter. During one meeting Chris told me that he sees the need for caring doctors in the community. “People just need to feel that they are being listened to,” he told me. Of course, he has hopes of one day raising an American family in an American home.
An Assault on Contributing Americans
The cancellation of DACA would be a direct assault on the thousands of immigrants like Chris. They are studying and working, paying taxes, and making a significant contribution to America. Dreamers like Chris are Americans. These youngsters have tried to make the best of the opportunities that they encounter. Many are volunteers within their communities.
DACA has proved to be a success. Simply put, it gives undocumented young people, brought to the U.S. as children, an opportunity to study and work without fear of deportation. It provides a two-year time of protection and a permit to work legally. And then there is a renewal process and the requirements are stringent. High school enrollment or successfully receiving a diploma or GED is necessary. Honorable military discharges are acknowledged. There can be no criminal record. Each must have lived in the U.S. continually since 2007.
There is no sane reason to deport or remove these Dreamers. In fact, consider the insane costs incurred should the authorities have to hunt down 800,000 youngsters, take them to court, and then physically relocate them abroad.
Consideration should also be given to the loss of revenue should we deport these folks. Dreamers contribute significantly to our economy. For instance, reports have shown that eliminating DACA would cost $433.4 billion in GDP over a decade, and reduce Social Security and Medicare tax contributions by $24.6 billion over the same time period.
Relying on the hope and promise of our American government, these trusting youngsters have come forward, revealing their lives and their whereabouts, submitting résumés and applications. Should DACA fall away, they have laid themselves bare, ready to be grabbed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and sent abroad to lands they do not know. A trust betrayed.
Anti-immigrant forces assert that ending DACA would mean more available jobs and more economic opportunity for natives. No facts back up those assertions. To the contrary, young and busy people have always been an economic benefit to our nation, no matter their origin.
Indeed, we are already seeing immense opposition from the high-tech industry sector. Apple and Microsoft employ many DACA workers. Some of my friends from Stanford University believe that many Ivy League schools will be taking a formal position opposing the loss of DACA.
As a nation of well-meaning immigrants – And we all are, aren't we? – we cannot afford to stand aside and let these Dreamers be tossed away. It's plain cruel and not in line with traditional American values. This is not a time to be partisan, or to label ourselves liberal or conservative, or to make this a racial issue. This is a human crisis crying out for humane action.
Good Americans must raise their voices in communications with representatives and use their ballots for the good cause. What’s at stake are the lives of thousands of young people who call America their home. Congress must act quickly to pass a bipartisan Dream Act of 2017, without any holds, games, or trades by any party. We must not play political ping-pong with the futures of these young American Dreamers.
Perhaps one day my client Chris will become Dr. Chris, if we allow him to have his American dream. Or, maybe one day Chris will be sitting at a desolate bus stop in a foreign land, wondering what happened, what his next desperate move might be, shaking his head about America and lost promise. There is no point to this cruel madness.