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Towards a more dignified immigrant Sonoma County

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Towards a more dignified immigrant Sonoma County

by Jesús Guzmán, Lead Organizer, Graton Day Labor Center

The recent decision by a federal judge in Texas to place a preliminary injunction on President Obama’s DAPA and expanded DACA program has many worried and concerned about its future. The program known as DAPA, which stands for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, would allow the parents of U.S. citizen born and legal resident children to apply for temporary work authorization. The expanded DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would allow unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for a work permit. The program is now at a stand still with over five million potentially eligible people awaiting the court’s decision.

The program was announced soon after November’s election after Congress had failed, once again, to make any real effort in passing immigration reform. For millions of immigrants the anticipation of the DACA/DAPA program has meant a long awaited opportunity. Most legal experts expect that the program will be eventually implemented as the federal government, ultimately, has sole authority over matters of immigration.

This has been a hard fought battle to expand the original DACA program that was introduced in 2012 that provided relief for immigrant youth popularly known as “dreamers”. Many community grass-roots organizations, frustrated with Congress’ inability to pass any type of immigration reform, focused their efforts targeting President Obama pressuring him to use his administrative power to end the persecution of immigrant families. That narrative eventually proved to be successful. A victory organized by immigrants and led by immigrant pushed the President to take action. 

Yet, even as this victory extends legal protections to millions of immigrants it is not an end all, be all nor does it remotely come close to providing a real solution. Extended DACA/DAPA still excluded millions of immigrants who do not have U.S. born children or who they themselves arrived as children. There are countless people who arrived to this country many years ago who have children, established families and laid roots in the U.S., but don’t have a U.S. born child.  Are they any less deserving? The question itself poses issues when framed as “deserving”.  Immigration is not about who is most “deserving” but instead a question on how to treat all people with dignity and respect.  In calling for deportations, raids, and scapegoating immigrants as illegal aliens who “steal jobs” the conversation has marginalized the notion that as a society we are talking about human beings, neighbors, friends, and family. 

Therein lies the greatest challenge. Most believe DACA/DAPA will survive this judicial hiccup and will be eventually implemented. But even when that happens, and even if Congress finally passes an immigration reform bill, the job is not done. Any policy worth its weight must reflect the values of the communities who elevated the conversation beyond simple policy, and towards dignity, liberty, and access to living wage jobs for all.