In summer of 2012, former President Barack Obama and his administration created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals through executive actions. This program has changed the lives of nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants by providing work authorization and relief from deportation.
But as we near the five-year anniversary of the creation of DACA, we also face the very real threat that it may soon be destroyed. This issue heavily impacts UC campuses, including our own, as UCLA is home to about 600 undocumented Bruins. Regardless of whether these students have chosen to disclose their immigration status, they are present, they matter and they deserve to stay.
Ten states are threatening to take legal action if President Donald Trump’s administration does not end DACA by Sept. 5. Similar court challenges led to the demise of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, which provided relief for undocumented parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents, and was rescinded by the Trump administration in June.
But while the future of DACA seems bleak, we as a campus must rally to fight for its continuation and for the passage of other legislation that will protect the undocumented community. This includes calling your senators and holding the UC administration accountable for protecting our undocumented students.
Last year, the Undergraduate Students Association Council External Vice President’s office lobbied in support of the BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill that would codify protections for undocumented immigrants through Congress. In short, BRIDGE would be a legislative “fix” for DACA, which critics argue was an overreach of executive authority.
On July 20, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced DREAM Act legislation. This bill differs from DACA and BRIDGE Act by providing a pathway to citizenship for select undocumented individuals. Eight days later, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez introduced the American Hope Act, an even more expansive bill that would provide permanent legal status for undocumented youth.
Certainly, these bill are not without their flaws. However, given the looming threat of DACA’s repeal, national advocacy organizations, such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice, National Immigration Law Center and United We Dream, have chosen to rally behind this legislation. Even if Trump vetoes immigration reform legislation, a strong show of bipartisan support might elicit more favorable concessions from his administration to prevent the deportation of parents of DREAMers and other immigrants.
The USAC EVP and General Representative 1 offices are in support of the continuation of DACA and the passage of legislation like the Hope Act, because they protect our communities and serve as crucial steps toward more humane and comprehensive immigration reform. But we also recognize we must focus on legislation that creates more permanent and inclusive immigration policies. Not every undocumented immigrant qualifies for DACA, and DREAMers are not the only immigrants deserving of protection.
While undocumented immigrants enrich our country in countless ways, we should remember to sympathize with them not because they fit a model of what we think a so-called “good immigrant” is. We must stand in solidarity with these people not because they are parents, children or college graduates, but because they are human, and should not have to live in fear of the threat of deportation.
DACA’s repeal would impact more than just immigration policies: Without DACA, your peers will lose the right to higher education, the right to find employment and the right to live in a country they call their home. The future of thousands of people are at stake. It’s imperative that legislation such as the BRIDGE Act, DREAM Act and American Hope Act be taken seriously. They need not only our approval, but also our support.
On July 26, we collaborated with a number of community organizations to set up a phone bank to call elected officials about immigration from Kerckhoff patio. As we near the looming Sept. 5 deadline, we hope you will join us in future lobbying efforts. We must also support the work of initiatives like Undocumented Students for Advanced Retention and Community, advocate to make UCLA a sanctuary campus, and be unapologetic about our voices and our narratives.
Solis de Luna is a second-year political science and communication studies student. Mendez Vargas is a third-year political science student. Both are immigration advocates in the USAC EVP office. Corona Diaz is a second-year political science student and USAC General Representative 1.