When I finally received my green card, the smoothness and softness of the surface was not due to the nature of the material, but was rather of a very simple comfort: that I was safe. I held up the flimsy piece of plastic, noted the photo of my face, my name and my birthday all nicely printed. I was 16 then and, for the first time, I could make plans to actually go to college or get a job, without having to later tell myself that it was all a joke.
What made me worthy enough, special enough, to become a legal resident of this nation? Absolutely nothing. I can tell you that the path from being an 8-year-old with an expired tourist visa with the Department of Homeland Security not getting off my family’s back to getting to say I was a permanent resident was a series of incredibly fortunate events and coincidences. I had the luck to have been born to a mother that had been college-educated in Mexico, that was bilingual and was able to qualify for the U-Visa. I did not choose my parent and I also did not choose her choices.
I go back home to San Francisco and I know that friends and neighbors my age, with such a similar story, did not get to choose their parent or their parent’s decisions either. But like me, they wanted something for their lives. Like any other human being, they wanted the security that they could count on knowing where they would be tomorrow. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) presented, for those that qualified, something very close to that.
Being fully aware that this is not the only opinion piece speaking out against the repeal of DACA by President Donald Trump, I do not wish to present an argument stating my anger, disbelief or sadness. I do feel all of those sentiments, but I have come to realize that it is very difficult to convince those individuals that see themselves “on the fence” through the sentiments of myself or of others directly affected by this repeal. So, this is an attempt to use an “objective explanation” for something that truly cannot be understood solely with an objective lens. What I want to strike against is this phrase that keeps coming up, either on cable news or casual conversation on this topic: The United States is a nation of laws and the rule of law must be preserved to assure a stable union.
A law is a manifestation of the power of the government to maintain the agreement and goals decided between the government and governed. Civics 101: The sole reason a government exists is because a group of people has come together to create something bigger. The U.S. government and its laws support themselves with the commitment of the American people.
Now, I’ll ask a question directly to those individuals who believe that DREAMers shouldn’t stay in the U.S. with a legal status: If DREAMers have for decades lived in this country, contributing to it by paying millions of dollars in taxes (yes, undocumented immigrants do pay taxes; the IRS has no problem with that), maintained proficient academic progress, have kept clean records and contributed socially, politically and economically to this country, does the American government not have the same obligation to them as to any other American?
If this is a nation of laws, then let’s put the federal government under the same legal scrutiny. By deporting hundreds of thousands of individuals who have maintained and contributed to it, the federal government has broken its original responsibility to the people; it has delegitimized itself. There is no justice in deporting a DREAMer.
To the DREAMers, and to every single person that is trying to figure out their next step regarding immigration: You have a place in this nation. You have given years of your life, through your studies, your labor and your suffering. The government has been fine with taking so much, and it refuses again and again to recognize its debt to you.
I can explain how ending DACA represents a great economic loss, or alludes to a potential constitutional crisis. But then I realize how futile it is to pretend that the lives of hundreds of thousands of people my age, with an incredible love for this country, can be equated to constitutional law and numbers. Making sure that the lives of the DREAMers are not torn apart because of a choice in their lives that was out of their control is making sure that the chance does not slip away to assure that the promise and reality of this country match.
Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20 is from San Francisco, Calif. He lives in Mark Hopkins.