“DACA is unconstitutional and should end.” It’s a rationale I often hear from people who don’t support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But what they may not realize is that there are 800,000 people whose lives would be severely affected if DACA ended.
My life is one of them. I was born in El Salvador in the aftermath of the civil war that took place between 1980 and 1992. The war left poverty, corruption, and a lack of opportunities to prosper. In the town where I grew up, there were no hospitals or schools nearby, in fact, people barely finished elementary school. At the age of 11, I left El Salvador, desperate to find security and protection. I was sexually abused and I knew that anywhere else was better than El Salvador, a country that has a high prevalence of sexual violence against women, which often leads to death.
I’m not asking for pity, but I do need people to understand the factors that forced people to migrate. Most people don’t know that the United States backed the war in El Salvador by providing weapons that killed many innocent people and forced others to leave the country. We are still seeing the effects of that war, as well as the continued intervention of the United States.
When I obtained DACA in 2013, I remember feeling ecstatic that I no longer had to hide. My family and I could remain together without fearing being torn apart. I found two jobs and started attending college. However, I don’t want to focus on my college education or how successful I am.
Instead, I want to highlight that I am part of a community. I am part of a family of four siblings of a single mother who worked hard to give us a better life. DACA allowed me to become a source of income for my family and to spend time with them without thinking about the possibility of being deported due to my status. We have to stop thinking that immigrants must be high achievers for them to deserve to stay. Undocumented people, including DACA and TPS holders, among others, deserve to stay and remain with their families because they are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity.
DACA is just one program that was intended as a temporary fix to our broader immigration problems. DACA is indisputably extremely important for the 800,000 young immigrants who benefit from it, as well as their families. It should not be rescinded. But I also recognize that all of us deserve better than short-term policies that leave people in limbo. Comprehensive reform is the only way to accomplish that.
Reina Guevara is the Development Director of the Student Immigrant Movement and a Philosophy & Public Policy student at the University of Massachusetts Boston.