Seeing the truth and fictions of DACA

Seeing the truth and fictions of DACA
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A young man lies in a Philadelphia hospital bed, having survived a shot to the head. His weeks of recovery is going well and he looks forward to returning to law school. A man who identifies himself as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent bursts in the room and informs him he will be transferred to a medical facility run by the Department of Homeland Security.

This scene was part of ABC-TV’s “How to Get Away with Murder” recent season four finale. But it is also eerily similar to what happens in real life to real people across the country.

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On Easter Sunday, President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE slammed The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and immigrants with this tweet: “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

 

From Mississippi to San Diego, immigrants including DACA recipients face detention and deportation. These frightening scenes of arrest and detention played out recently in Navato, Calif. where a father was taken shortly after dropping off his child at elementary school. And again when 22-year-old Daniela Vargas was arrested in Mississippi after speaking at a church-organized event. 

These official actions are increasing even as immigrants have the support of 86 percent of the American people. Still, the U.S. Congress failed to pass a Dream Act once again, in the last omnibus spending bill.

The recent inclusion of an immigration question on the 2020 U.S. Census serves as a politicizing of the count and is yet another blow to the immigrant community. Politicians on both sides of the aisle as well as scores of organizations slammed the new version.

Representative Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenEx-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company Republican Salazar seeks rematch with Shalala in key Miami House district MORE (R-Fla.) wrote: “The purpose of the census is simple: collecting appropriate data on the people that reside in our communities so that we can distribute federal resources for the needs of the population.

Any question, including one regarding citizenship, that could in any way discourage an accurate count, must be omitted. The census is not a means to do an immigration head count. It is a means to help all of our constituents with their needs regardless of their immigration status.”

From Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), wrote“Make no mistake: The addition of a citizenship question in the Census is intended to intimidate our immigrant friends and neighbors from participating, which will lead to an inaccurate count… The consequences of an undercount in the next census will have a serious negative impact on every individual, citizen or not, in our country. 

Without an accurate count of everyone in this country, we cannot ensure the government fairly distributes funding to schools, or adequately funds plans for natural disasters or the outbreak of epidemics. Cities across the country will not be able to fund fire and police departments to ensure our homes and communities are safe. It would become close to impossible to enforce civil rights protections for fair housing or equal employment.”

The American people are left asking how we got to this point, where we cannot find compromise among such division, even on the issues where we agree. Perhaps it is more comfortable for some to be surrounded by those who look, think and vote as they do.  

But it might be helpful to remember that the concept of this nation made many people uncomfortable, but it was this insatiable need to break with the status quo that allowed the American experiment to thrive.

Immigrants pay $12 billion in taxes, and many are leaders in their communities who edify the cultural and social make-up of this country. Certainly the idea of job-stealing immigrants who come in droves to exploit the structures of rule of law is a frightening one, but not one that is the predominant truth.

An essential part of being an immigrant at this point in history is speaking out so that the world knows of our existence, and that we will not return to the shadows.

Being an undocumented artist provides a perfect platform to uplift these stories. My recent role  in Cara Mia Theatre Company’s tour of Deferred Action, a play based on the lives of North Texas immigrant youth, taught me just that.

The role allowed me to portray a Salvadorian mother who is murdered on the way to the U.S. on la bestia, or the beast, the train that takes Central American immigrants through Mexico. It is only part of the treacherous journey to the U.S..

This mother sacrificed her life for her son, as many do, embarked on a journey she knew she may not survive, only with the slim hope that her child might find something better at the end of it.

In the TV episode of “How To Get Away With Murder,”the character of Simon Drake, a Pakistani law student who overachieves in the face of adversity, is a DACA recipient. The depiction of an immigrant as a person-with goals, values, and beliefs on national television is noteworthy.

In real life, the latest verbal attacks on U.S. immigrants and the refusal to provide hope for the future of those who embraced the U.S. and the idea of its optimism represent a moral failure. Policymakers have an obligation to provide a true, fair ending to those who trusted we would keep America’s promise.

Liz Magallanes is Dallas Fort Worth Coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, which is a national civic engagement organization that advocates on social and economic issues that impact the Latino community, from immigration to workers rights. Magallanes is also Public Voices Fellow through the OpEd Project.