During the fall quarter of my freshman year I made my way up to the eighth floor of the UCSB Library. It was a weekend night, so the library was mostly empty. As I took a seat and began to read, I looked around at the stacks of books and understood that I was safe because I had found my home.
Many people in the United States don’t feel safe, especially our fellow peers at UCSB and across the nation who receive deportation relief and work permits from the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
DACA is an executive action signed by President Barack Obama in August 2012. Applicants of the program must follow certain criteria very specific as to whom the program benefits. As of right now, approximately 700,000 undocumented immigrants benefit from this program.
However, DACA is in danger of being repealed as the president-elect’s inauguration approaches. Donald Trump jump-started his primary campaign stating, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Up until his election, he continually attacked undocumented immigrants, calling for deportation forces and the building of a wall on the southern border paid for by Mexico.
Of course, now there is little evidence to show that Trump will build an actual wall (if built, it will be the taxpayers and not Mexico who pay for it) or that he will deport the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Like many of his other outlandish claims, he seems to have backed out of his promises regarding undocumented immigrants.
Still, there is great reason to believe that Trump will expand the force of Homeland Security and seek to punish undocumented immigrants. In response to the uncertainty of the future ahead, college and university leaders across the nation have pledged support for the DACA program and for undocumented students in general. The list is vast and includes our University of California President Janet Napolitano and our chancellor, Henry Yang.
This leads us to the recent “University of California Statement of Principles in Support of Undocumented Members of the UC Community” that was released by the UC, which takes the stance that no UCPD member will actively make it their job to persecute or arrest individuals in violation of federal immigration law. Instead, the police force will focus on local and university issues. For some this was a good ethical approach to the looming issue of immigration.
Others like Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Californian Republican, disagree. He believes that “illegal aliens,” as he prefers to call them, don’t deserve the right to receive higher education. In fact, in a letter he wrote to Janet Napolitano, he states that “[The UC’s] commitment to spending scarce resources to finance people illegally present in the United States is unacceptable and a flagrant misuse of taxpayer money” and later threatened the cutting of federal funding to the UC’s. Some will take Rohrabacher’s view, and that is fine.
Nevertheless, undocumented immigrants, like U.S. citizens, pay their taxes. In a 2013 report, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, estimated that they pay about $17.6 billion a year. So to say taxpayers are funding “illegal aliens” might be true, but the taxpayers happen to be undocumented immigrants themselves.
Furthermore, DACA recipients are an exceptional group. They are not criminals by any standard. Their presence in the country is a civil violation and not a criminal one, according to federal immigration laws. Additionally, the program itself is very clear as to whom may benefit from it and they are people who came to the United States before they were 16, as minors. Most people come to the United States to escape poverty and violence from back home. These recipients in many cases came through no choice of their own.
DACA recipients, sometimes called Dreamers, are as American as I am and as American as Trump. All they’re missing is a piece of paper.
As a student of the UC system at UCSB, I am proud that Napolitano and Yang have made it clear that they will not participate in the unethical persecution of students. I am also proud of the immense bravery those students showed by coming out of the shadows. They were willing to share their personal information with their government for the chance to live safely, free from persecution.
If you can live with the thought of a computer engineering student on his way to class being arrested by the police force that is supposed to ensure his safety, then fine. I simply will not.