DACA and deportations aren’t the only issues on the line
Kemberly Gil came to the United States from Colombia when she was 3 years old. She was with her parents, her older brother, and her younger sister. Like most undocumented immigrants in this country, Gil and her family crossed the border legally — on a tourist visa. After six months, however, the visa expired, and they lost their right to stay.
That was in 1999.
The family has lived in New York state since they arrived in the U.S. and, while Gil’s parents were always honest with her about the fact that she was undocumented, it wasn’t until she attended an immigrant’s rights rally when she was in fourth grade that she realized being undocumented was a problem, and one that affected a lot of people. Though she was only a child, she volunteered to speak to the crowd, calling on lawmakers to understand undocumented immigrants are people, too.
“I remember that I cried that day,” Gil said. “But no one heard me. The people there heard me, but the people who make decisions … nothing happened.”
Then, in the summer of 2012 President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which he created by executive order. Gil and her siblings became eligible for driver’s licenses, work permits and protection from deportation for two-year, renewable terms.
The federal government approved 819,512 DACA requests from the program’s inception through March 31, 2016. An additional 539,000 people have renewed their original two-year reprieves.
But this fall, the presidential election could mean the end of DACA. Donald Trump has not only promised to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the Republican presidential candidate has said he would also eliminate the program. It is, perhaps, the most prominent immigration policy at stake when Americans go to the polls. And that’s not the only way a Trump administration could affect the lives of one of the fastest-growing populations in U.S. schools. In fact, the contrast between two presidential candidates on immigration policy has quite possibly never been so stark.
By TARA GARCÍA MATHEWSON for The Hechinger Report
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