EDITORIAL

Punishing DACA immigrants just more of the same from U.S.

Posted

A few years before her death at 38, Emma Lazarus donated a short sonnet to raise money for the construction of the pedestal that would eventually prop the Statue of Liberty into the sky.

The sonnet called the planned statue “The New Colossus,” assuring everyone in the 19th century that Lady Liberty was indeed a new wonder of the world.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”
Cries she with silent lips.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Ellis Island, of course, was a primary gateway for millions of immigrants looking to find a better life in a country, itself built on immigration. Yet even when Lazarus wrote those words in 1883, the United States wasn’t exactly a beacon of hope for those coming in from around the world. 

In 1875, Congress passed the Page Act, which prohibited “undesirables” from coming to the country. Those undesirables? Convicts, for sure, but more often than not forced Asian laborers and Asian prostitutes.

That expanded in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act as places like California despised the competition immigrants from China had created not just for jobs, but for precious metal in the waning years of the gold rush.

Since then, Congress passed one bill after another, all designed to restrict immigration — typically in ways that today could only be classified as racist.

Three presidents — Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson — were against many of these attempts, especially those that wanted to deny entry to immigrants who failed a literacy test, a move that already existed in the south to deny African-Americans the right to vote. Cleveland and Taft successfully blocked it, but congress finally overrode a Wilson veto in 1917 to make such tests a requirement.

A century later, we still haven’t figured out the proper way to welcome new people into the United States with dignity. 

According to the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute, more than 43 million immigrants live in the United States, accounting for more than 13 percent of the country’s total population — the highest since before many of the aforementioned anti-immigration laws were enacted.

Yet, the only claim with any viability that immigration could consume more resources than it creates are various reports that show job growth is not keeping pace with population growth.

Immigrants certainly fuel population growth — with more than 1 million people granted permanent residence in the United States in 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security. But so does simple procreation — 4 million babies were born in the United States that same year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

So if immigration is bad for the economy, couldn’t the same be true for the maternity ward?

Of course not. Those babies are innocent. But in the long run, so are the 800,000 people protected through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — better known as DACA.

The 2012 executive action was designed to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, giving them a chance to become productive members of the community by bringing them out of the shadows, and protecting them from deportation.

Qualifying for DACA is not easy. Each one is younger than 31, and had to arrive in the United States before they were old enough to drive. They had to have completed school, or be in school, and could not have a criminal record.

Yes, being undocumented in the United States is illegal — but as children, these particular immigrants never set out to break the law. They simply followed their parents, their families, all in the hopes of finding a better life in the United States. 

Support for those protected under DACA among the general population is quite high — even if overall sentiment is against illegal immigration in general. These DACA men and women, boys and girls, are exactly the kind of immigrants this country wants — law-abiding, productive, educated. 

Yet, Trump wants to sweep them away.

The president is right — Congress should have acted on this long ago. The law-making body did have an excuse: Blocking Obama at every turn was, after all, a full-time job. 

But Trump has now put a ticking clock on whether these people — American in every way, except by name — can continue to contribute to a society that has come to depend on them as much as they depend on it. 

Immigration reform is needed, but mass, indiscriminate deportations are not the way to do it. The policy didn’t work under Obama, and it certainly won’t work under Trump. 

It’s time to show some compassion, and to finally welcome those who came to America in tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.

Comments

3 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Jack Ira Warshaw

First, people who sneaked into this country or over stay their visa are illegal aliens. Second, we legally swear 1 million immigrants each year to become US Citizens with more waiting in the wings. Third, what do we tell our new US citizens who followed the rules, waited many years as Permanent Residentss, passed citizenship exams that all they had to do was to sneak across the border. Lastly, people who support DACA illegal aliens should perhaps pony up their monies and taxes themselves to help rather than place this burden onto their fellow citizens that do not agree with this.

Friday, September 15
Riverdale__NY

@Jack Ira Warshaw:

Couldn't have said it better myself! If we're going to let all of these people into the country that are here illegally, why bother having immigration laws on the books? We can adapt an "open door" policy and let anyone who wants to come in enter. These days, anytime we demand that laws are followed, somehow it becomes a discussion of how people are racist or xenophobes. My question is (and a rhetorical one at that) where else do countries have "open door "policies regarding illegal immigrants?

Wednesday, September 20
CelticWoman

I'll air out the dirty laundry.

I'm a former Inwood resident. Lived there the first 18 years of my life. My mother was a lifetime Inwood resident - 50 years. Her parents, LEGAL IRISH IMMIGRANTS WHO LATER BECAME CITIZENS, moved to Inwood in 1940 after they married. They lived there for over 30 years before moving to the Bronx.

Almost 26 years ago 2 ILLEGAL Dominicans followed my 12 year old sister's 14 year old friend into our building and up 5 flights of stairs where they pushed her into our apremtnet. Our parents were not home at the time. We were tied up, robbed and each of us raped one at a time and gun and knife point. The thugs were caught some days later, hiding in a closet in Washington Heights. Tehy were both sentenced to long prison stints and both were denied parole for the first time.

I cannot seem to explain to anyone what happens when people enter this country illegally. The regard for our law goes right out the window. While I realize that those under DACA came here as children and ultimately wasn't their choice, I have reservations about rewarding them with anything. Truth of the matter is that they are not going to be deported. But to hand the citizenship while others have had to wait on line for years is just wrong.

Those who enter into the US illegally should be deported ASAP. Our Constitution needs to change where no longer can one become an automatic citizen because they were born here. I don't want to hear about the hardships of an illegal - that's not my problem. And please spare calling me a racist, xenophobe, bigot or white supremacist. When you have walked a second in my shoes, get back to me on the this illegal problem the US has ignored for far too long.

Friday, October 6