I’m Relieved the Court Protected Dreamers… but That’s Only Step One
The DACA decision needs to be firmed up with a pathway to citizenship
Like the rest of the world, some days it feels like I’m standing in a storm. My father lost his job because of the pandemic and my special needs younger brother is immunocompromised. Now they depend on me to earn a paycheck, buy the groceries, and run essential errands. On top of all that, the federal program that allows me to live and work here legally has been under threat, and until recent weeks, it seemed likely that I’d become eligible for deportation. For so long, I’ve been living on adrenaline and fear, if I were deported, I don’t know how my parents would cope and I don’t know how my brother would survive.
To my surprise and deep relief, the Supreme Court ruled to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives work authorization and protection from deportation to me and 660,000 Dreamers, who are undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The decision recognizes the tremendous contributions Dreamers make to this country. I’m grateful that the Supreme Court decision has allowed us to stay. Of course, there’s still work to be done. The Trump administration could attempt to cancel the program again. Until Congress passes legislation that permanently protects Dreamers, families will continue to live in limbo.
While I’ve navigated the many challenges life has thrown my way, I’m ready to have the question of my legal status settled. My family needs me here, and we’ve already been through so much. When I was five, we moved to the United States, looking to escape grim economic conditions in our native Morocco. At age eight, I was diagnosed with diabetes and learned how to manage a chronic disease. At 12, the attacks on September 11, 2001, created new hurdles for Muslim immigrants like us who were trying to legalize their status. The next year, my brother Sami was born in an Ohio hospital with a long list of special needs: Down syndrome, a congenital heart defect, and respiratory problems. My mother became his around-the-clock caretaker while my father worked 13-hour days at a convenience store.
When DACA was announced in 2012, it changed everything for our family. Suddenly, I was able to help support my family as a T-Mobile sales representative and legally drive my brother to his medical appointments and surgeries. If any administration successfully cancels DACA and I were deported, that would disrupt my life and put significant strain on my family. That’s something a lot of people don’t realize: Dreamers tend to come from mixed-status households. About 60% of DACA recipients have at least one American sibling, according to United We Dream, and ending the program could separate 250,000 U.S. citizen children from their parents. This could significantly harm their health and development, according to an amicus brief signed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Our families depend on us, especially as many DACA recipients have recently entered the workforce and become breadwinners.
All told, 1.2 million Dreamers currently work essential jobs, including 62,000 in U.S. health care, according to the New American Economy.
We’ve also become reliable workers. At my job, the pace of customers has not slowed as Americans increasingly rely on mobile technology and internet services to reach their loved ones in quarantine. My colleagues and I wear protective gear, but we still face risks. One co-worker was recently approached by a coughing customer who admitted they had Covid-19. All told, 1.2 million Dreamers currently work essential jobs, including 62,000 in U.S. health care, according to the New American Economy (NAE). Our impact on the economy is meaningful — in 2017, 93% of the DACA-eligible population was employed, we paid $4 billion in taxes, and 43,115 were entrepreneurs, according to the NAE. I have my own entrepreneurial aspirations. I plan to finish my college degree (I had to pause my studies a few years ago to help my family) and open an American-Moroccan fusion restaurant.
In the meantime, I’m weathering the storm as best I can, working to keep my family afloat, and protecting their health. I can’t imagine what would happen to my brother if I were deported. My parents remain undocumented, which means they’d risk arrest every time they drove him to the doctor. We need Congress to settle this issue so that Dreamers like me can turn our attention to caring for our families, launching careers, and investing in our communities. Dreamers have widespread support among Americans. Even the vast majority of Republicans favor protecting Dreamers in exchange for more border security, according to a 2018 study by NAE and Target Point Consulting. It’s what constituents want.
As we celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision and prepare to celebrate July 4, I am eager to push Congress to take decisive action to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship. Our lives — and the lives of our beloved family members — literally depend on it.