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DACA

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While Democrats and Republicans squabble over reaching an agreement to raise the debt ceiling in the hopes of funding the government beyond Jan. 19, peoples’ lives are hanging in the balance.

Debt ceiling battles that come down to the 11th hour are nothing new in Washington. As is wont to happen in our nation’s capital, a high-stakes game of chicken is currently underway. Democrats are seeking a resolution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative while the Republicans want additional border security, which will also serve as much-needed political points for President Donald Trump (R), who promised his supporters a secure border during the 2016 campaign.

While political games often have real-life consequences, this time feels different. DACA was meant to be a temporary fix during the Obama administration to answer the complicated question regarding what to do about children brought to the United States by adults coming here illegally. It provided temporary status for approximately 800,000 people — commonly referred to as Dreamers — who fit this description, though a permanent answer to the question is still being sought. The Trump administration rescinded the action in September and, ever since, Dreamers have lived in fear of deportation from a country that has become home. Now, their status is a pawn in a political game of chess.

Similarly, reauthorization of CHIP — the Children’s Health Insurance Program — is awaiting a government funding agreement. The service provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In 2016, nearly 9 million children were enrolled in the program, according to www.medicaid.gov. The program covers routine checkups and immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and vision care and emergency services for enrollees. In November 2017, the House passed a five-year reauthorization bill to keep the program running, but it never reached the Senate floor. The health of 9 million children hangs in limbo while politicians try to score points for their home team.

Obviously, for far more reasons than the fate of DACA or CHIP, a compromise needs to be reached in order to keep the government running. Taking a funding battle to the wire is nothing new, but it is shameful that leadership from both parties are allowing these vulnerable members of our society to twist in the wind for months on end along the way.

For Democrats, erecting a border wall, or fence, to appease the president and score him a political win in exchange for a sensible resolution to DACA — and an end to the torturous waiting — would not be the end of the world. For Republicans, do 800,000 people who have contributed to our society need to be uprooted and sent home?

While we wait for both sides to grow up and compromise, families with sick kids and those looking to live the American Dream are likely going through incomprehensibly difficult times. A little compromise and compassion would go a long way.

Stony Brook University students show their support for those protected by DACA. Photo from Stony Brook University

As President Donald Trump (R) proposed to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Stony Brook University community members and students voiced their support for the DREAMers — the name given to the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants that were brought to the United States as children.

University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. stated his and the institution’s continued support of DACA in a Sept. 5 email sent to the campus community.

“We have seen how the recipients of DACA have a positive impact on our campus and broader community,” Stanley said. “Diversity of perspectives, thought and understanding serves as a foundation of Stony Brook’s academic enterprise and helps our students become global citizens. Let’s do what’s right, and unite to support our ‘dreamers’ together.”

Two days later, more than 200 students, faculty members and administrators united in the March for DREAMers rally to show undocumented students at the university their support. In addition, the marchers presented a letter to administrators listing further actions they hope the university will take.

Marchers show signs they brought to the March for DREAMers rally at Stony Brook University Sept. 7. Photo from College Democrats

Members of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, an equality advocacy group, were among the rally’s organizers. The group’s Vice-President David Clark felt it was important to stand up for classmates who may feel vulnerable now.

“I wanted to, first of all, raise awareness of the concerns of DACA recipients and DREAMers on campus and also to show support of them on campus,” he said.

Clark said participants were thankful for the institution’s support of undocumented students and appreciated the university’s current stance on DACA, and Stanley’s statement that the campus should be considered a sensitive location by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Clark said the marchers were joined by representatives of non-campus groups including the Islandia-based SEPA Mujer, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of Latina immigrant women.

The college junior said administrators cooperated in securing a ballroom in the student activity center where participants gathered for speeches after walking around a circle and congregating in the main academic mall’s plaza. He said chants included,

“Say it loud. Say it clear. Dreamers are welcomed here.” Marchers held signs with messages that included, “Undocumented and unafraid” and “Sin DACA, Sin Miedo,” which in Spanish means, “Without DACA, without fear.”

Clark was satisfied with the turnout of the peaceful protest.

“I was really happy that so many Stony Brook students care about their fellow classmates, friends who are undocumented, who are getting through a very hard time right now, a time of uncertainty for them,” he said.

In their letter, marchers asked the university to ensure SBU would not provide information to ICE about any undocumented students or their families, not allow ICE to take students into custody without a judicial warrant, and to let students know if ICE is on campus through the university’s alert systems. The organizers also asked that a list be available on the website of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to notify those who are not citizens where private scholarships may be available to them.

Stanley said in his Sept. 5 email that the university does not request or require immigration status as part of the admissions process. He added that immigration status is not a factor in student housing decisions, and the university does not share private information.

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