Reflections of an immigrant: Why accepting DACA is wrong

Reflections of an immigrant: Why accepting DACA is wrong
© Getty Images

The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of President Obama’s executive quasi-amnesty — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In essence, Chief Justice Roberts joined the liberal justices, determining that the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA supposedly did not offer sufficient explanation. As Justice Thomas pointed out, this effectively binds President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE to an unlawful Obama policy. However, the court simultaneously ruled that the president can still rescind DACA again, but with a more comprehensive explanation. And the president stated that he intends to do just that.

But regardless of what ultimately happens on the DACA front, it is clear that the program is a bad policy that rewards illegal migration, flouts the rule of law, and is unjust towards American citizens. What is more, it is also unfair towards immigrants who came here legally. As a legal immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, I will explain why.

My father came to the United States from Poland during the 1980s. He wished to live in a free country and detested so many of the aspects of Soviet oppression, including that Poland was deprived of its national sovereignty and independence by the Kremlin. Under communism, the Polish people were denied the right to determine their nation’s future because its rulers placed an internationalist agenda above the interests of their own people. Sound familiar? 

ADVERTISEMENT

He also deeply resented the arbitrary application of laws by the communist regime, the fact that — as in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” — some were “more equal than others.” This is why DACA, and other attempts by officials to ignore parts of our immigration laws they do not like, leave a bad taste in the mouths of at least some legal immigrants, including myself.

After several attempts by my father to obtain a visa for me, I eventually came to the United States at the age of 10. So, I do understand why millions of people around the world want to come to the United States — or another prosperous Western country — and why they want to bring their children here. Much of the world continues to live in relative poverty under bad and corrupt governments. Believe me, I get it.

But, as a matter of principle, I also believe that immigration must be done the right way, by adhering to and respecting American laws.

My family followed the rules, which are frequently inconvenient and even tedious, but are absolutely indispensable to bringing a modicum of order to the immigration process. They also are an affirmation of a sovereign nation’s right to exercise control over its borders — something which never should be taken for granted.

The immigration process required jumping through many hoops, spending hard-earned funds, filling out paperwork, learning English, and waiting in line. In fact, I still remember taking the train to the city of Kraków with my mother during the early 1990s, standing in a long line for hours in front of the U.S. consulate, and nervously undergoing a visa interview. (I had been denied a visa the previous year, but rather than attempting to sneak me into the U.S. illegally, my parents tried again.)

ADVERTISEMENT

Given that we followed the rules — and given that so many people across the world are doing so as well — is it unfair to expect others who wish to come to the U.S. to do so?

DACA supporters often argue that “Dreamers” require special consideration, and should be given a “break,” because they were brought here as children or teenagers by their parents and, as such, should not be on the hook for the “sins” of their fathers. And yet, the children of other lawbreakers — for example, tax evaders — are not legally allowed to retain the proceeds of a crime committed by their parent(s). And this legal principle is not limited to the United States.

Ironically, of course, many of these same DACA apologists and cheerleaders also believe that all Americans — including first- and second-generation immigrants — are somehow responsible (as Americans) for the sins and crimes committed by some Americans generations or even centuries ago.

What also bothers me about DACA, and illegal migration in general, is its fait accompli nature. In other words, foreign nationals violated U.S. borders, unlawfully brought their children — who were often teenagers — and we, as a society, are being asked to retroactively accept these violations of our laws and territory because “what is done cannot be undone.”

Moreover, the attitude of many of the most vociferous pro-DACA activists is disturbing and, quite frankly, off-putting. Rather than humbly asking the U.S. government to make an exception, they are defiantly demanding above-the-law status as if they were somehow entitled to reside in the U.S., or perhaps even to receive citizenship.

This is quite foreign and strange to me. I was taught by my father that America owes me nothing — because it was kind enough to open its doors to me — and to be grateful for living in the best country on earth. After all, living in the U.S. is not an entitlement or a right; it is a privilege.

In the end, regardless of whether we are legal immigrants or native-born citizens, we should also look at history when it comes to making up our minds about DACA. Those Americans who are not necessarily DACA enthusiasts, but are willing to accept the program — be it to “give the ‘DACA kids’ a break,” or to lessen domestic political tensions — should consider that DACA is unlikely to be the last amnesty, or quasi-amnesty, demand by the pro-illegal alien lobby. 

After all, the 1986 amnesty not only did not stop illegal migration — in fact, it was followed by decades of more illegal immigration — but also led to recurring calls for more amnesties. That is why giving in to the DACA lobby and its talking points, especially without securing any meaningful concessions in return, would be an error.

Pawel Styrna is an immigration policy analyst at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).