Last night I was honored to speak at a Yolo County "Home Is Here" gathering to support the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. Many thanks to the groups that organized this event. My remarks are below. I hope you will join me in taking action to support our DACA community members.
In shared service,
Photo Credit: Greg Brucker
Today, November 12, 2019, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the matter regarding the current federal administration’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Child Arrival program implemented in 2012. In response to the deep concern about the implications of this milestone event, the Davis community gathered to reflect and show support for DACA status holders. Thank you to those who organized this Home is Here event in Davis. Thanks to the Davis Phoenix Coalition, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis Immigration Justice task Force, the City of Davis, and the activist singers called Raging Grannies. And thank you to the many Yolo County residents who felt compelled to join us in this gathering.
I stand before you today in the spirit of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors’ March 2017 unanimous adoption of a resolution expressing our commitment to ensuring that every resident of Yolo County is safe and welcomed in our shared community.
Many of those who organized today’s gathering participated in the development of that resolution through an ad hoc effort we call Safe Yolo. Our resolution pledged to monitor and take appropriate action to ensure family unity, community security, respect, due process and support for all residents of Yolo County.
The continued assault on DACA status holders reflected by our government in today’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court and the ongoing series of just plain mean treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers by our federal government harms the sense of well-being and safety of the people of Yolo County. Your presence here is testimony to that unease and injury.
To be clear, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allows a limited number of people to defer action on their immigration status for two years. To be eligible for DACA, a person must have been under age 31 as of June 5, 2012, under age 16 upon arrival in the United States, and must have lived in this country continuously since June 15, 2007. They must not have been found to have committed any felonies or more than three minor legal offenses. After two years, a person may apply for a renewal. There is a $495 filing and renewal fee that is set to be increased to $765. That is a fortune to many.
Because the DACA program allowed people a bit of freedom from worry and a chance to dream, those with DACA status have been termed “Dreamers.” Who are the Dreamers? There are about 800,000 DACA status holders. Of those, about 223,000 live in California. Texas has the next largest population with 124,000. While about 618,000 are from Mexico, they hail from many lands, including Central and South America, Asia and Caribbean. The most common age at the time of arrival in the US is three years old with the median age of arrival at six years old. The oldest are now 37 years old and the average age of DACA status holders today is 25.
Some Dreamers grew up learning to hide and not answer the door if police knocked. Others didn’t know they are not US citizens until they are asked to fill out a college financial aid application.
They serve in the military for the only country they have ever known. They work in every occupation we have. Not all of them are teachers, or doctors, or lawyers, but some are. As a group, they tend to work in higher paid and higher skilled jobs than other undocumented residents because they typically have higher education levels.
They do all of this while living under the constant fear that they or members of their family might be deported by a capricious act of the only government they have ever known.
Some are the children of immigrants and worry about their parents. Some are now parents and a few are even grandparents themselves of children who are citizens of the United States.
They study in our colleges and universities – over 600 UC Davis students are DACA status holders. They are most likely the first person in their families to attend college. They face all the real challenges of high costs for housing and college and food as other students, with less access to resources than other students.
They are Lorena, who graduated from a high school in Monterrey County and came to UC Davis to study Political Science and take courses on the history of immigration policy and racism in the United States. Knowing money was tight, the people in her town held a community wide tamale sale to send her off to her first quarter of college.
They are Edgar who was a student leader in a Yolo County High School listening to his classmates talk about college applications and believing that path was not open to him. He now works to connect under-served community members to health care providers.
Why does this matter to us? Let’s start with doing the right thing. In a 2017 twitter post, President Trump said, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” But he made a campaign promise and moved forward in an almost half-hearted way to dare us to make him not do it. Let’s see if this hand-picked Supreme Court majority will allow this travesty to occur.
This truly matters. It matters because injustice against any of us is injustice against all of us.
This truly matters. It matters because we are truly in this together.
The poem from Reverend Martin Niemoller calls our attention to supporting those around us. His refrain was about not speaking out for others and having no one left to speak out for him. Let’s change that.
First they came for the Muslim.
They came for the Socialists.
Then they came for the trade unionists and the farmers and the small businesses.
They came for the women of color in Congress.
Then they came for the people of faith in their places of worship.
They came for the people wherever they gather.
Then they came for the water and the air and the ocean and the sky.
They came for truth itself.
And you know what?
We did speak out. We spoke out then. We speak out now and we will continue to stand together and speak as one voice to end this tragic and stupid meanness and restore this country to our ongoing path toward a more perfect, a more just nation for all of us.
So now? Now we ask, what do we do as we wait for the court to rule. We know that this will take more than wearing our t-shirts and holding our signs in a comfortable place today. If you want to channel your emotion to action consider a donation to the Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network for support for DACA renewal applications – this is not cheap.
You can also speak out against the proposed federal regulation raising immigration filing fees. Among other things, this regulation will establish a monetary fee for people seeking asylum in the US for the first time in history; making us one of four nations in the world charging a fee for people fleeing for their lives, along with Iran, Fiji and Australia.
We can tell the world we respect immigrants and others left out. Speak out. Write letters and make phone calls.
We can vote. We must hold elected officials at all levels accountable.
Be kind. This is a long term issue. For those awaiting the actual ruling of the Supreme Court, the next six months will carry a dark cloud over their futures. Let them know they are not Dreaming alone.