We call them DREAMERS. These DREAMERS, or DACA-mented individuals, are young people who were protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It is not actually possible to determine the dreams of approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who are benefiting from DACA. Although it can almost be certain, that they, perhaps, are dreaming of things that would ultimately make them happy and proud human beings. For many, going to college and acquiring a decent job are those first steps to a path which may lead to happiness. For others, this path might look differently. Today DREAMERs received news that our current administration ended the DACA program. DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was an Obama era policy implemented in 2012. In response to growing street and policy activism by and on behalf of young immigrants, DACA allowed immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to “defer” deportation action for two years. Every two years DACA recipients could renew this designation and remain in the U.S. while working toward their citizenship. In addition to being the right thing to do, this policy has positively benefited this country socially, economically and culturally. Do note our insistence that the DACA policy was in response to activism by and on behalf of immigrants. Nothing is ever graciously dispensed to marginalized folks, we have fought for every scrap of humanity that we have ever received.
Ending DACA is an egregious political act that is rooted in racism and exacerbated by dog whistle politics. The fact that we struggle to imagine immigrant identities outside of Latinx ones is a result of this racism. Our political rhetoric has created an immigrant equals Latinx equivalence. Our country is in turmoil and as we grapple with these issues we must not overlook how the elimination of DACA and programs like it, impact the young people we serve in mentoring and youth development programs. Critical mentoring was made for times like these and as mentoring organizations, we must act. Critical interrogation of context is a key component of the critical mentoring concept. Understanding the trauma, oppression and subsequent resilience of our undocumented family members is part and parcel of operating programs that effectively serve them. Even if you do not believe you are serving young people who are undocumented, please recognize that many of our youth live in communities that are, on a day to day basis, terrorized by state sanctioned violence and exploitation. It is also important to understand that while rhetoric and narrative focus in on Latinx communities when talking about immigration, the youth of other ethnic identities are erased and their narratives undermined. DACA recipients come in all shades. As mentors and youth workers, engaging with youth and operating in partnership with them, we must care about this devastation and react accordingly. Below we offer specific resources and support to mentoring organizations looking for ways to engage.
Get Information: First, we need to educate ourselves before we engage in this conversation and enter the spaces we encourage our young people to create to process this. DACA is a long, complex, and expensive process so we should learn about what our young people and their families were facing when they entered the DACA program. Obviously, the resources and articles we are providing do not directly assist our young people, nor do they replace any legal advice or cause a direct change. But this a first step.
Here are some of the news updates:
Get Active: Providing a resource event or support night for the youth and their families in your program can be a good way to show support and activate the local community. Even assisting youth in organizing a “Call to Action” night where young people affected by this announcement can contact their local representatives or participate in a letter-writing workshop are viable ways to engage. Here is a link to a “How-To Guide to start a DREAMer Townhall”.
Get Resources: Some of our youth may need immediate help. Start by identifying organizations in the community who are offering a range of services around this issue. Establish a connection and begin referring youth who might need help you aren’t prepared to provide. It might also be helpful to identify organizations who are working to help DACA recipients with the fees required to cover the price tags associated with the legal documents required. Below you will find some useful resource guides.