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Cameron Ventura, Immigration Activist

Those of us supporting a fix for DACA – a way in which the 800,000 people who were brought into this country as Children through no fault of their own – have become aware in recent weeks that there is no viable chance for a “Clean Dream Act” to be passed in this legislative session. We must now shift our focus to what compromises we are willing to accept.

Those who oppose DACA, but are willing to meet at the table to discuss options, are typically only at that table because they see an opportunity to gain something that they want. The Trump administration, and the Republican party in general, has struggled to pass legislation through Congress this year. They now have Tax reform as a cornerstone of year one – but now it’s 2018 and they are surely looking for an addition to their resume in preparation for upcoming elections.

DACA recipients are by definition people who have a desire to learn and work. If they weren’t interested in jobs and education, they wouldn’t see much value in the DACA program and wouldn’t have drudged through the paperwork and fees necessary to become a recipient. With legal employment comes taxes.

We must not be hoodwinked into thinking that President Trump or the Republican party wants to round up and kick out those who meet the criteria for DACA status. This is almost one million people who are at the mercy of the U.S. government – willing to take whatever deal is put before them. The President needs a win. Currently DACA is the only feasible way that he can spin his promise to make Mexico pay for the border wall to look like a kept promise. If he creates a path for DACA to be maintained, he can easily (and truthfully) point the country to the application fees and, more importantly, generations of tax dollars generated by this group as the source of funding for whatever projects he wants implemented on the border.

We are in a vulnerable place. Those of us who support DACA recipients are heartbroken at the thought of this program lapsing with no replacement and 800,000 people being pushed back into the shadows with no option of furthering their education or attaining professional certificates. We also realize that there is limited time, elevating the urgency with which we have to work. The issue is that as we sit at the mercy of an administration that seems to have no vulnerable spot to press into. They have framed the conversation to appear as though any action on DACA is an act of overlooking the sins of these kids and providing good to them as from a benevolent caretaker. This is not the case. As our representatives continue sitting around the negotiating table this week, they will need encouragement to fight for justice, not just a reorganizing of injustice.

So what do we do?

I’m of the impression that the majority of Americans have a sense of right and wrong. This is the same country that realized…eventually… that slavery was wrong, that women aren’t second class citizens, and that children shouldn’t be forced to work. It will take time and immense effort – but I believe that through persistent advocacy for justice the conversation will be re-framed and a coalition will rise to demand something better. Regardless of what is or isn’t passed this year, increased dialogue will shift the narrative of immigration and will awaken the spirit of America to once again illuminate the injustice of our legislature and demand that we do better.

When do we do it?

In seven days DACA will enter a new phase, increasing the number of those who are no longer under protected status. On March 5, over 1,000 people per day will lose their legal status. Due to this fickle and volatile situation, many have already begun losing their jobs and leaving universities. Seeing no path forward, many high-school students have lost hope, leading to despondency and lack of attention in class. Can you imagine the impact of never knowing how many more days your country will allow you to remain. For years we have been told of the importance of creating a healthy, learning-conducive environment for students to develop; yet now we are very clearly holding thousands of students in suspension, unsure of what the “grown ups” in charge of their future will decide.

With the tragic events of the past month, much of the narrative has switched to focus on gun legislation. This is a fight in and of itself, however, we must not forget the DREAMers. Undoubtedly, congress will use gun legislation to avoid immigration – – but we must not allow this to happen. Please join me in being a regular caller to your representatives. They must hear from their constituents in order to know that we still care. Join me.

Grace and peace.

Memphis immigration Project exists to engage issues of Immigration from a biblical perspective.

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