I want you to think about the Miami sun. I want you to think about that burning, intense fire heating the thick air like an oven. Feel the steam rising up from the black asphalt and the reflection of the imposing, stark white buildings. The heat is unforgiving and the sweat is beginning to trickle down the side of your face, into the collar of your shirt. I want you to think about the quick, heavy heartbeat that feels like it’s going to burst out of your chest as you walk up to this monolith of a building. Your heart seems to jump to your throat as you go through security checkpoints. Your stomach drops as you ride up the elevator to the courtroom, where you will have to state why you deserve to stay in the country in which you have resided nearly your entire life. This is where I first met Michaela – and where I finally began to understand DACA.
One of Many Faces Behind DACA
If you meet Michaela, you will immediately be struck by the vibrancy of her smile. ‘The sun personified’ may be the phrase that pops into your head. She’s objectively beautiful, a total catch for her boyfriend who she’s been with for well over 5 years. Long dark hair and deep brown eyes framed by long, dark lashes and brows I try to recreate for myself and never quite attain. And when you get to talk with her, the more you’re warmed by the sheer empathy that she has for the people around her. When we first locked eyes, she lit up like a sparkler. As Latin people often do, Michaela rushed over and embraced me, telling me how my father had told her all about me and how she had been wanting to meet me for months. That is how Michaela approaches everyone: with a warm smile and a genuine desire to know you.
As we’re surrounded by the cold hard politics of Southwest Florida, she is the refreshing breeze going through the courthouse. Despite the stressful day that was ahead of her and her family that day in Miami Immigration Court, she was still showering pure love over everyone else in the courtroom. I think back to that first meeting as I write this. It was one of the more important days of Michaela’s life. With their immigration lawyer, my own father at the helm, we all filed into the courtroom. The plan was simple: Michaela and her father would be at the stand, answering questions as to why her father should be allowed to stay in the United States. I can’t share the details of the case, but I will tell you that it was one of the most nerve-wracking and emotionally draining experiences of my life. As I remember this moment, I begin to think about what happened for this scene to even come to fruition.
A Brief History of DACA
Let’s have a quick review of the turbulent path immigration policy has taken in the past few years. In June of 2012, the Obama administration dreams up the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more popularly known as DACA. Quite simply, this program would delay deportation for childhood arrivals that meet very strict criteria, which must be renewed every two years. This litany of parameters includes criteria such as:
- You must have reached the United States before the age of 16;
- You must continually reside in the United States since making your request for DACA,
- You are currently in school, have graduated, are working, or are an honorably discharged veteran,
- And you must not have been convicted of a crime.
It must be remembered that this was never supposed to be a permanent fix but was intended as a net until the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was put into place.
It’s in 2016 when soon-to-be President Trump promises to end DACA as soon as he comes into power. And though he seems to soften his heart towards DACA recipients and their plight, on September 5th, 2017, the Trump Administration revokes DACA, beginning the torrential anxiety sweeping through America. This tension was not too long lived due to the January 2018 decision by the Federal courts to keep the original statutes of DACA. While the future of Dreamers is still up in the air, many are working toward retrieving their hard-earned status and fighting the hostility that comes with the current political climate.
Where Does This Leave DREAMers?
It’s in this uncharted territory where we find Michaela. As a DACA recipient herself, while living in the immigration hotspot of South Florida, she has been in the fire zone of immigration policy, bearing witness to every policy change. As I asked for her story and her opinions, I asked her if she could imagine a world without DACA. She did not sacrifice diction for the sake of diplomacy: “A country without DACA would bring separation of families. Children and families will be emotionally affected, including an economic crash within the country.”
Michaela’s theories are not singular to her. Many of the DREAMers in the U.S have gone on to further education, built businesses, and are making a name for themselves in the United States. To take away DACA means that those Dreamers will have any hope of status taken away, leading to deportation and the separation of hundreds of thousands of families. The emotional and psychological toll that will be placed upon the population will be absolutely devastating. A more quantitative consequence of this revocation is what this could potentially do to the U.S economy. Should DACA be rescinded, it is estimated that an average of 30,000 people will be out of work each month, costing the U.S economy billions of dollars in taxes.
While we as a nation are grappling and wrestling with the varying viewpoints, we must remember the faces of those who will be affected by such a decision.