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DACA: AN AMERICAN PROMISE

Apathy becomes action as integrity dissipates in the back and forth struggle for citizenship.

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DACA: AN AMERICAN PROMISE

Grace Giordano

Shouldn’t our institutions be held to the same Judeo-Christian standards that we, as individuals, are held to? Shouldn’t integrity matter? Is character an individual trait or an institutional one as well? Bottom line: A promise made should be a promise kept — even more so when it’s made to a minor.

Dreams or Nightmares? What was once promised to thousands of immigrants and their families is now being taken away based on a technicality, which speaks to the integrity of our institutions. Trust in government is the cornerstone of representative democracy. While one aspect of our immigration policy provides context, the other provides a promise. America’s word is what should matter, but in reality, the confidentiality that was extended is now being shared, and immigrants are suffering the consequences with little oversight and a lack of support doomed to endless uncertainty.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an Executive Order signed by President Obama on June 15, 2012. It applied to any child brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday if they could show continuous residency beginning in 2007. Among other things, the program provided that these children would not be subjected to deportation.

Most of those eligible (so-called “Dreamers”) were brought here by their parents. These parents continue to live “in the shadows,” fearful of deportation. Therefore, to energize participation, certain promises were made by the Immigration Service who “vowed” that it would “wall-off” personal data and not share this data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Both ICE and the Immigration Service fall under the purview of Homeland Security who’s director, Jeh Johnson, confirmed this promise in an open letter which stated, in part: “personal information provided [by DACA applicants] will not later be shared with ICE.”

Based on America’s promise of privacy over 900,000 children applied and 800,000 or so were approved. These children, most living at home with undocumented parents, provided addresses, photographs, fingerprints, and other personal information.

Presently, DACA is under siege. With a new administration came the fulfillment of a campaign promise and an announced repeal of the Executive Order in September 2017. Recently, various federal courts have thwarted the repeal, but DACA’s future is far from certain.

While Executive Orders carry the force of law, they are subject to the whim of the Executive Branch which has the power to modify or repeal them (i.e., the fine print). Now Homeland Security’s stance is nuanced — DACA’s data will not be “proactively” shared with ICE but that it may be shared when “appropriate.” Bottom line: There is no legal restriction on the sharing of information between agencies.

The last time more than 50 percent of our citizenry said they fully trusted the government was in the late 1960s. Much of our distrust can be traced to the publication of the Pentagon Papers which exposed presidential misstatements during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, we’ve only gotten more cynical — a recent poll suggests that just 30 percent of us trust what our institutions tell us.

Revolutions are grounded in dramatic economic changes, yet often there is a subtext of distrust that ignites action. During the Russian Revolution, it was distrust for the German-born Tsarina Alexandra that helped topple the Romanov Dynasty. During the French Revolution, it was Queen Antoinette’s Austrian roots that sowed the seeds of distrust and ultimately contributed to the transformation of France into a Republic. While these were not the primary causes of conflict, they provided momentum and context.

Of course, the breach of our DACA promises will likely not result in a revolution. What it will do is fuel the vitriol and partisanship that is already much too acute. Our country is great and founded on values of “fairness” and “righteousness.” However, it will disappoint us all if we begin to lose sight of these principles. If ICE uses DACA data to tear minors from their families, what would it say about our compassion, our honesty? Would the scales of distrust tip so far that apathy becomes action? I believe in our greatness and, more importantly, in our goodness. I am therefore convinced that our country will focus on the promise and not the fine print…at least I hope so.

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DACA: AN AMERICAN PROMISE