GenY on D&I: DACA Should Be #HereToStay

This week, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and offered Congress a six-month window to pass legislative action to address this issue.

DACA was created in 2012 by the Obama administration and offers young people whose parents brought them to the US before the age of 16 a way to stay here legally without citizenship. If they pass an intense background check process, these DACA applicants are given a two year period where they will not be deported and are able to work, study, and get driver’s licenses. DACA recipients have to go through the same background check process every two years to maintain their status.

The human and economic impact of rescinding DACA is undeniable and well-documented. 800,000 young people who pay taxes, attend our universities, and contribute to our communities will be impacted and at risk of deportation. The decision could reduce the U.S. GDP by more than $400 billion over the next decade. But for me, the decision about DACA is also personal.

My parents are both from South India. After they got married, they moved to Oman, a country in the Middle East, so that my mother could have a better job and so that our family could have a better life. When I was thirteen and my sister was ten, our green card application was approved, and we moved to the United States. I went to middle school, high school, and graduated with a degree in Public Health. I now work at the Centers for Disease Control and my team works to help state and local health departments fight public health threats like the opioid overdose and respond to natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I pay taxes, and contribute to the greater good of society.

I did not have any control over my parents’ decision to move to the United States.  

My parents made the decision to move our family to the United States without consulting my sister and me. They took a risk to give us all a shot at a better life. I am just lucky that they were able to do so legally.

Somehow, I am American and DACA recipients (at least in 6 months) will cease to be. But, being American should be more than a piece of paper or a certain classification in our immigration system.

I can’t “go back to my own country” of either India or Oman because I don’t know either of those places. These 800,000 young people that are now at risk of deportation have most likely lived most of their lives in the United States and, like me, don’t know another home. Yes, their parents broke the law by entering the country illegally (often for the same legitimate reasons as my parents). But, we cannot fault children for the actions of their parents because they had no control over their parents’ decisions.  Asking them to leave the only home that they know is reprehensible.

These are young, law-abiding, hard-working people that contribute to society. Let them live. We, Americans by paper, have nothing to lose but our claims to justice and inclusion.

About Nebu Kolenchery

Nebu Kolenchery is a public health professional who agrees with Sir Geoffrey Vickers in that the history of public health is “the constant redefinition of the unacceptable.” He is a consultant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA. (The views, opinions and positions expressed by Nebu are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of The Winters Group, Inc.)

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