butterfly

DACA’s Demise: A Call to Action

Faith Sandler Words of Faith

butterfly

It is the season in which we see monarch butterflies migrating south. The monarch is considered a symbol of hope, of persistence, of transcendence, of the beauty and utterly natural phenomenon of migration. On the Friday before the announcement was made that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would end, I stood at a rally in front of the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis. I admit that I felt like a very anxious parent when two of our students stepped to the mic. I knew they would speak their hearts and declare aloud that they were undocumented and unafraid, but I worried about their growing roles as leaders and whether this would be safe for them as individuals, as students. With a mixture of anxiety and pride, I heard their words move across the crowd and I looked to the sky. There was a monarch, flying from east to west, about 20 feet above the heads of all of us gathered there. My heart leaped and I pointed.  Did anyone else see?

This blogpost is a request that you take immediate and multiple actions to respond to last week’s announcement that DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is rescinded.

ACTION

Here is what I’m asking you to do:

  1. READ MORE and CHECK YOUR LANGUAGE. I’m providing more context below and links to publications I consider credible and useful. There is a lot of misinformation and stereotyping occurring. Please don’t use statements that demonize the parents of these young people as “breaking the law”. Avoid judgments in phrases like “through no fault of their own” or “they had no choice.” Remember that these are families, and for the most part their only infraction was love.
  2. GIVE MONEY. If you know individuals affected, first express your concern and support. Then ask if you can help. Pay legal fees or provide the $495 application fee for DACA renewal. If you don’t know anyone or aren’t comfortable offering money, make a contribution to a nonprofit that provides direct services that are free or sliding scale. In St. Louis, I recommend The MICA Project (http://www.mica-project.org/) for contributions to support legal services and The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis (https://www.sfstl.org/) for scholarship grants to offset educational costs.
  3. CONTACT YOUR ALMA MATER. Don’t be content with a published statement of support for students or a #DefendDACA tweet. Is the statement from the President or Chancellor or is it from someone without power to act? What are they doing to assure the safety and security of undocumented students and families (physical, emotional, identity and location data)? What financial resources are in place to support undocumented students? If your alma mater is a public university, do they charge undocumented residents in-state tuition? Ask what their lobbyist is doing to urge swift Congressional action. Do you know that what they promise is actually being delivered to students affected?
  4. URGE CONTINUED DILIGENCE AT THE K-12 LEVEL. Since 1982 (Plyler v Doe), school districts are prohibited from inquiring about immigration status and may not deny education on that basis. That has not changed as a result of DACA being rescinded. The spread of headline “news” and social media could result in confusion, a rise in racism, or bullying aimed at children. What can you do to remind parents, teachers, and school district leadership that rights and responsibilities under the law remain?
  5. CONTACT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IMMEDIATELY AND REPEATEDLY TO URGE SWIFT ACTION. It is too soon to know how Congress will respond. A clean bill is probably the only process that will meet the six month deadline. Extending DACA, dusting off the Dream Act, or moving forward the Bridge Act are all possibilities. For updates on Scholarship Foundation response to proposals as they are put forth, follow this blog and/or our Facebook or Twitter.

CONTEXT

It has been less than a week since the Attorney General of the United States announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  In just six days:

  • An estimated 800,000 people and their families have been presented with nearly certain uncertainty;
  • Tweets from the highest office in the land have provided empty assurance that Congress will solve the matter or the executive branch will reconsider;
  • CEOs, universities, and chambers of commerce heretofore silent have tripped over each other to make statements of disapproval of the end of the program and urge support for a legislative solution; and,
  • “Operation Mega”, a planned immigration raid set for late September in order to detain/deport 6,000-10,000 people has been leaked, confirmed, and said to be cancelled due to hurricanes.

To say that the affected students and families with whom we work are terrorized is an understatement.

DACA was created by executive order in 2012 and provides protection from deportation for individuals who meet specific criteria.  Though not technically an immigration status or a path to citizenship, DACA has provided a way for young people born elsewhere but raised in this country to continue education after high school, work, and get driver’s licenses.  Clearly a temporary and partial fix, DACA has opened many doors.  Those doors are now rapidly closing.

In Missouri, approval under DACA does little to advance college access. The Missouri Legislature has inserted into the preamble of the higher education budget for two years a clause that threatens punitive action if public institutions charge those students less than the highest tuition rate available.  DACA students at Missouri public colleges (2-year and 4-year) pay tuition rates two to three times higher than their classmates. These same students, charged exorbitant rates, are not eligible for any state or federal financial aid.  Practically speaking, this means undocumented and DACA students must find private funding, attend private institutions that will support them financially, or leave the state if they wish to pursue a degree.

Rescinding DACA with no plan or promise of a solution for 800,000 individuals, their younger siblings, and others shut out of a path to citizenship is cruel beyond words.  About 25% (190,000 of 800,000) are eligible to renew in the next month, based upon their expiration dates. Beginning in March, an estimated 30,000 individuals will be phased out of the program each month until a total shut down in October, 2019.

The board of The Scholarship Foundation took action to support undocumented and DACA students in 2014.  We have a full-time Student Advisor whose primary focus is immigrant services.  Our advocacy team has been working to change the hearts and minds of policymakers at the state and federal level, with some success.  Our donors have been quick to see the strength and potential of our students and have supported the expansion of all our program to permanent residents, regardless of citizenship.

Members of our staff have spent the last six days organizing on every front: responding to immediate calls from students; coordinating and supporting community services; seeking out those from whom we have not heard; responding to media; meeting with nonprofit and educational partners to inform; and connecting with national efforts to counteract the likelihood that these students and their families will be hotly debated but very poorly served by the next six months of politicking.  I’m asking you to help now, before the issue fades from the frenetic national stage.

– Faith Sandler

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

  1. Ongoing information and response from The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis
    Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  We keep those channels current and state positions there regularly.
  2. Resources for Students and Families Affected:United We Dream
    https://unitedwedream.org/toolbox/Educators for Fair Consideration
    http://www.e4fc.org/resources/whatweknowcandonow.html
  3. National Legal Organizations:Catholic Legal Immigration Network (Executive Director is Scholarship Foundation alum, Jeanne Atkinson)
    https://cliniclegal.org/Immigrant Legal Resource Center
    https://www.ilrc.org/

    National Immigration Law Center
    https://www.nilc.org/

  4. Philanthropic Guidance:Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees
    https://www.gcir.org/resources/2017/09/daca-rapid-response-brief
  5. Guidance to Public School Districts:Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
    http://inservice.ascd.org/know-the-law-immigrant-children-and-k-12-education/