You’ve lived in the U.S. for as long as you can remember, but you weren’t born here. Every Fourth of July you had a barbeque and watched fireworks with your friends, celebrating the independence of your country and you never felt out of place. You can’t remember an existence before your life as an American.
Then someone tells you to leave and return to your country of origin. Home to you has always been the U.S.
This is not just a tale, but a reality for students who have been living under the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for years and will now be left with no place to call home.
On Sept. 5, 2017 President Donald Trump repealed DACA, an immigration law originally passed as an executive order by former President Barack Obama in June 2012.
According to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA protects over one million individuals from deportation, as of 2016. DACA allows them to work, study and live in the U.S. legally. The recipients of this bill are called DREAMers — from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM act), a predecessor of DACA that ultimately failed to pass.
To request DACA, applicants must meet a list of requirements. They are required to have entered the U.S. before 2007, before they were 16, be younger than 31 as of 2012, be enrolled in school or the armed forces and have no felonies or misdemeanors.
The $495 application lasts for two years and is renewable, as long as the applicant continues to meet the criteria.
In response to the nullification of DACA, USF’s Office of Multicultural Affairs scheduled a community hour on Sept. 5, right after Trump announced his plans to renounce the program. The purpose was to discuss how this affects students and their loved ones.
Stacy Pippen, Director of the Office of the Multicultural Affairs opened the hour with a speech about the importance of DACA.
“Just know that no matter where you stand on this case or these decisions or where you come from there are lots of feelings and emotions that may be different from your own,” Pippen said. “There is a human side to this decision and there is a human impact in this decision.”
While Trump isn’t completely ending DACA, new applicants are no longer being accepted. Applications for renewal must be complete by Oct. 5. This gives current participants at least two years of protection from deportation and time to apply for citizenship.
Trump’s DACA decision stirred a controversy on both ends of the political spectrum, with many representatives offering their opinions and views and trying to find solutions.
U.S. Representative Kathy Castor (D) represents Florida’s 14th Congressional District. She is the creator of the American Dream Awards, which recognizes high-achieving immigrant students.
“DREAMers represent the best of America as they have built productive lives, attended school, are working and are committed to our great country,” Castor said in a press release on Sept. 5. “I plan to return to congress and press my colleagues to pass legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers”
Aida Vazquez-Soto, president of Turning Point USA at USF, said she would support reform of DACA.
“I understand that DACA was not something passed into law,” Vazquez-Soto said. “It was an executive order and the way it was being enforced was through executive action. The executive branch isn’t supposed to write a law, that is the legislative branch’s job. I don’t think it was wrong for Trump to pull back on DACA because DACA isn’t actually going to end for 6 months.”
The issue millions of DREAMers face is that they are all registered in a government database. This gives them a high chance of deportation.
In fact, deportation of individuals covered by DACA has already occurred. Juan Montes was deported on Feb. 17, 2017 despite his DACA coverage, and currently resides with his aunt and uncle in Mexico, according to USA Today.
USF students expressed concern for those who are threatened with the possibility of deportation. Marlene Aboytes, a senior majoring in social work, shared her support for DREAMers.
“I think they belong here just as much as I do, and it’s a huge injustice,” Aboytes said. “I want to ensure that love is more powerful than anything and that I’m here for them.”
USF faculty and staff members are also working to do what they can to protect students who might be affected by this decision.
Jerry Staples, Assistant Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, offered assistance to those who face the threat of deportation.
“We have facilitated the UndocuALLY training, which is a training hosted by our office to help educate people on how to help undocumented students,” Staples said. “We also have a list of resources and scholarships that we have collected from different places. (We are) a launching pad for folks who come in that need somebody to help them get to the resources they want.”
The Associate Dean of Students, Winston Jones, also offered his office’s support.
“We are here to do what we can to help,” Jones said. “Hopefully we will preserve and make it through this as well as we can.”
While the end of DACA is near, the effects of it are still not completely clear and Pippen urges people who are interested to look into resources and programs related to immigration.
“If you have not attended an UndocuALLY meeting I encourage you to pick up one of the index cards or look us up on our website or our Facebook page,” Pippen said. “If you are looking to find more information about these decisions, the legislation, the impact on students, the livelihood of individuals, attend an UndocuALLY session, where you can easily register on BullSync.”
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D) said on Sept. 13 that she and colleague Chuck Schumer (D) made a deal with Trump that would replace DACA and gets rid of the proposed wall. However, Trump would falsify these claims in a tweet Thursday.
“No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote,” Trump said via Twitter.
The idea of bipartisan efforts is controversial in today’s political climate.
Vazquez-Soto said it’s a little bit disappointing that Trump doesn’t have a lot of conservatives on his side right now. Trump is not keeping on his promises, like the wall being built. However, she said the Democrats are now praising him and he is working with them. Either way, Vazquez-Soto said she believes his base is going to follow him wherever he goes.
Jones concluded the community hour by thanking students, faculty and staff for being a support system for one another.
“Our faculty and staff are here to support our students … and work with our students [to] support them in any way that we can,” Jones said. “We appreciate the support and the care of the staff and their help in organizing and developing this as they have.”