The Forgotten Students? How DACA Affects our Non-Black Students

We talk and write about our African American students a lot.  We focus on the city’s racial and cultural shifts over the last 17 years, our kids’ overexposure to trauma and violence, their impoverished communities and other challenges faced and how our city’s faulty educational system tries to address them.  Little time is spent addressing the needs of our students who aren’t African American. I, too, am guilty of this.

In the wake Donald Trump’s insensitive attempts to do away with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), I can’t help but think of the many faces I see on a daily basis who are already struggling with trying to navigate the American system and learn the English language.  It does not come easily, but they work hard to push past the language and cultural barriers to adapt.  

There are two occurrences that make this decision particularly difficult to stomach outside of the bare fact that it’s just insensitive:

  1. This is an act that was introduced under the Obama administration, and it definitely appears that Trump is motivated to undo any and everything that Obama has instituted.
  2. Trump has yet to end his tirade of verbal abuse on any human beings other than those who resemble him, so the idea of placing a stamp on something that would further alienate and eliminate groups seems just right for this president.

During a roundtable discussion in Chicago, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville stated, “Not only is this decision a cruel one that will have a devastating impact on the lives of nearly 800,000 young people — 42,000 in Illinois alone who have benefited from the DACA program — it will also greatly harm our economy.” Foster said studies suggest the DACA recipients add $460 billion in economic impact to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

Not only are we, as disenfranchised African Americans sold the American dream, but so are immigrants.  However, while we are born into it, they travel to seek and maximize it, often faced with the decision to cut their education short by joining the workforce to financially support their families; as s study from Pew Hispanic Research Center reported:

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of all 16- to 25-year-old survey respondents who cut their education short during or right after high school say they did so because they had to support their family. Other reasons include poor English skills (cited by about half of respondents who cut short their education), a dislike of school and a feeling that they don’t need more education for the careers they want (each cited by about four-in-ten respondents who cut their education short)

There is no denying that there have been perceptions and concerns about immigration that have made many Americans feel uneasy.  Gaby Wood expressed in her op-ed in The Guardian, “Somehow, my nationality has become a dirty word. If you say “Mexican” in America, you are not referring to the citizens of a specific country, you are using a blanket derogatory term for “people who came out of nowhere and took our jobs.”

This is a common sentiment that is shared among our diverse immigrant population.  Being privileged to work with many immigrant students and their families on a day-to-day basis, my heart breaks for them.  Especially for the children who lack understanding and as an American with identity markers that makes me, too, a target for discrimination.

Now that the fate of DACA rests with Congress, call your federal delegation and share your opinion.  Click here to find your Congress representative.

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