Proving that 11 million immigrants' lives serve as nothing more than a rivalry between parties, Congress has continuously avoided real, comprehensive immigration reform. Rather than focusing on it as a human crisis, U.S. politicians seem content to allow the conversation to shift from the spotlight to the back burner as other issues arise.
The administration's self-congratulatory attitude for passing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process is telling of the government's unwillingness to resolve a major crisis. With the idea floating around that the president could possibly apply Deferred Action to all undocumented immigrants if Congress fails to come to an agreement on reform, it is important to address the key pitfalls of DACA and why it is not inclusive.
While it's important to be sensitive to those who have been waiting for and are grateful for DACA, we must avoid giving the immigrant community something to settle for. Politicians can not keep pretending that half-actions are worthy of praise. Below are five key issues with DACA, which would only be exacerbated if it applied more broadly.
1. DACA did not equal access to education.
Though DACA is frequently referred to in the context of DREAMers and the DREAM Act, it does not grant its beneficiaries financial aid for school. Through Deferred Action, a person is granted a social security number and work authorization, but their status becomes “an alien authorized to work” rather than a permanent resident (commonly referred to as having a green card) or a citizen. Should Deferred Action be extended to all undocumented immigrants under these circumstances, nothing would change. It would be the political equivalent of telling a starving person you will feed them, then offering them crumbs.
2. Root causes for migration patterns are not addressed.
It would be refreshing if we could publicly address the root causes of migration, which are often linked to forms of political oppression and poverty. Often, both can be traced back to the United States' involvement in other countries for their own economic gains. That, coupled with the nation's tendency to exploit immigrants once they're here (once again, for profit), have created a cycle that the government seems unwilling to analyze or take responsibility for. Until they do, anything passed will just be a band-aid.
3. DACA has demonized parents.
Upon receiving DACA, I kept hearing, "Oh, good for you, you didn't choose to come here!" As far as I and many others are concerned, our parents didn't have a choice, either. It is problematic and emotionally troubling to treat undocumented youth as if they are better than their families.
4. No guarantee of permanent status.
One of the stipulations of DACA is that work authorization and reprieve of deportation are subject to renewal every two years. If the process were applied to all undocumented immigrants in the way that it is for childhood arrivals, it would still not grant them any sort of permanent status. The threat of deportation would still loom over the community and, as the political climate continues to change, there is no guarantee that DACA would stay in place.
5. Latinos are not political pawns.
A major flaw in the immigration conversation is that the Latino vote is seen as one of the main reasons to pass reform for both parties. It does not seem to be an issue of human rights, but rather a question of, "How can we keep the Latino vote?" This is especially true of Democrats, who are taking advantage of Latino support for Obama and holding the community hostage with half-efforts like this.