Imagine growing up in an American neighborhood, going to school, getting involved in youth sports and other activities. Then trying to get a job or apply to college and finding out you are undocumented, even though you feel as American as your next-door neighbor. Many girls and young women in the United States today face this situation, and the U.S. needs to do more to help them.
Immigrant rights have been a hot button issue in the United States for decades. Immigrants and immigration reform has become even more pressing under the current administration.
The administration is seemingly torn between political promises and having a heart, as the president suggested in a recent interview. Anticipation has been swirling for months over the new administration’s stance on the DACA program. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was enacted in 2012 under President Obama. DACA protects immigrant youth from deportation and allows them to obtain work permits. According to the Department of Homeland Security, an estimated 22% of undocumented immigrants are under the age of 25. Almost 800,000 undocumented youth have received work permits under DACA.
The administration is going to give an answer on the fate of the DACA program on Tuesday, September 5th. Some Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have encouraged a legislative fix for the Dreamers (so-called due to a related proposal called the DREAM Act) rather than an executive fix. Ryan has tried to end DACA in the past, insisting that President Obama didn’t have the executive authority to create the program. Both Ryan and the current president have voiced general support for DACA. But whether they will actively support legislation to provide a legal path forward for Dreamers remains to be seen.
Turmoil over the DACA program has definitively left thousands of immigrant girls and young women in limbo. Maria Rocha is a DACA recipient teaching in San Antonio, Texas. She says she tries to explain immigration in a way that her elementary school class will understand. Jessica Rojas obtained an engineering degree and has since been hired by the city of Chicago to work on the electrical grid. Both women’s legal status in the United States is in jeopardy if the government does nothing to fix the program. There must be a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. In case America has forgotten, we are a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. We are a nation of immigrants and we need to stand up now and do the right thing.
You can read Daisy Romero’s own DACA story over at NPR.
Girl Museum Inc.