by Eleanor Goldfield
* Following post and embedded video from Episode 128 of Act Out!
Last week Trump announced that he was going to terminate the DACA program – deferred action for childhood arrivals. DACA, which rolled out in June of 2012, is a policy that essentially allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the US as minors to receive a renewable 2 year period of “deferred action” from deportation, eligibility for a work permit and a social security card. Applicants must renew in order to stay in the country legally and last week’s announcement basically shuts the door on renewals scheduled after March of 2018 as well as any new applications. Congress has a six month window to save DACA – or agree to its termination.
And if you were following alternative and even some corporate media outlets, you’d have seen huge swaths of protests across the country: sit-ins, walk-outs, marches, rallies, disruptions and more – all under the umbrella hashtag DefendDACA. So, what does that actually mean? What are some details and STATS to help us wrap our heads around what DACA is?
Well, first off, DACA applicants pay to apply and then submit to extensive background checks. Multiple forms include listing names and the personal information of contacts inside the US as well as a form that requires DACA applicants to sign a document admitting that they are in the US illegally. Obviously this extensive database of information on DACA recipients, their families and friends is a veritable jack pot for anyone looking to ramp up deportations and immigrant rights abuses. Indeed, the database issue has been a cause for concern for quite some time. Late last year, a DACA recipient wrote an op-ed asking Obama to destroy the files so that the Trump administration wouldn’t have access to it. Unfortunately the former Deporter-in-Chief didn’t get or care about the message – a point that we will come back to momentarily.
Meanwhile, once approved – DACA recipients can and do go to school and work as well as pay taxes – But they are exempted from some benefits such as welfare. A recent poll by the Center for American Progress shows that 91 percent of DACA recipients are currently employed. The report also shows that over the next decade, “DACA beneficiaries will contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product.” For an economy that’s in the red to a tune of 20 trillion, that DACA chunk of change would doubtlessly be a welcome boost. Indeed, last week, outlets on both sides of the aisle were crunching numbers and making the case for DACA recipients to stay. Because you know: labor and give us your money…and buy some shit to prove you have purchasing power. Be good citizens – not by being dreamers but by being AMERICAN dreamers. You still won’t have access to the rights – both theoretical and actual – that “real” Americans have but at least you’ll be a good capitalist bastard child of the empire.
And this is the ugly side that most are unwilling to talk about. Despite headlines like this one , not only are we not just a nation of immigrants – natives, cough, cough – forced migration during the slave trade, cough cough. Not only are we not just immigrants but we are ALSO not a country that EVER smiled upon the practice of immigration. Be it Italians, the Irish, Jews, Chinese, Japanese – this great country of ours has always loved to hate immigrants. And even now as talking heads crowd around graphs, pie charts and round tables, the conversation is squarely confined by statistics – numbers. Sure there’s a personal interest story thrown in here and there but the simple fact that we are talking about PEOPLE, about LIVES – that consideration is never really made. In other words, in order to give a shit about human rights, we have to couch the value of hundreds of thousands of people in the context of how they can enrich others; how they can benefit OUR bottom lines or how they can serve in our military crusades, a point that Obama made in his initial speech about DACA back in 2012. The only bargaining chip that can save a person’s future in this case is if they agree to assimilate to the preferred path of the empire. It isn’t about THEIR dreams. It’s about the over-shined turd of the American dream, falling apart like a shifting scene from Inception, tumbling onto the shoulders of those our system can most easily threaten with life or death situations.
As Ella Mendoza, DACA recipient and community organizer wrote in a recent article : DACA “has come hand in hand with candid shots of politicians hugging immigrant children, wide shots of graduations from programs that I could never afford to apply to, and US American flags adorning buildings all built on stolen land. DACA was made to portray the illusion of compassion, to answer this country’s guilt and shame, and to give a scapegoat to President Obama who deported a record-setting two million immigrants.”
As a woman who freely admits that DACA saved her life, Mendoza is also not afraid – indeed unapologetic – in criticizing the immediate and full-throated support of a program that never intended to look upon her as human being with inalienable rights. And as we, all children of the empire, move forward, we have to also be unafraid in recognizing the pitfalls of programs like DACA, or like the ACA, that while helping people are still firmly planted in a capitalist, for-profit system. And until we extract human rights from the clutches of a capitalist beast, the dollar sign will hang above our heads, defining our worth, our eligibility to exist and to thrive.
In other words, instead of Defending DACA, let’s defend each other – because from that perspective, we can, and we will win.
Check out the video below to see our interview with Ella Mendoza.