By Kayla Alvarez ’20
September 5th, 2017, was another normal day for me. I woke up, attended class, finished homework, and then went to sleep with a maternity pillow with the safety and comfort that tomorrow I could wake up and do it all over again. That same day, the security I took for granted was stripped away from nearly 800,000 people in this country when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was rescinded.
My first thought was, “what does this mean for my friends back home?”. I’m from Southern California. I grew up in a primarily Hispanic community, among acres and acres of strawberry fields full of hard working immigrants. I have friends from high school, from my home church that depend on the protection DACA ensured.
“Are they going to be arrested?” I wondered. “Is the information they provided for registration going to be used against them? Why would, of all things, the Trump administration go after these dreamers? Don’t people understand the lengths these young people have gone through, to live without the fear of deportation in a country they know as their only home?”
Once the shock and anger wore off, my second thought was, “what can I do?” Fortunately, I did not immediately take to social media, as we sometimes tend to do when emotions are running high. I took a moment (or really, many moments) to think of how I could productively lend support to my “Dreamer” friends.
So, what did I do? Naturally, I texted my mom. I expressed my hurt, frustration and confusion with the Trump administration’s actions and the state of our country. And naturally, she knew just what to say. I was reminded of the unbounding love Christ has shown me throughout my life. As a follower of Christ, it is my responsibility to express that same love to others in whatever capacity is available to me. In the situation I found myself in, that love looked like using my voice, however big or small it may be, to proclaim my solidarity with not only the Dreamers, but also the 1 million undocumented immigrants in America.
Then, I took to social media! Despite majoring in political science and sociology, I’m not usually one to plaster my political beliefs and ideas all over the internet. I believe that there is power in our words, and sometimes we are tempted to abuse that power because we do it behind a screen. However, since this executive decision would directly affect many people in my life, this was an instance in which I couldn’t be silent.
After a long post that expressed my support for Dreamers and called God’s people to fall on their knees in prayer for our undocumented neighbors, the texts, Facebook messages, and comments came pouring in. To my utter astonishment, they were all positive! Friends, who I had no idea were a part of the DACA program, sent me messages of gratefulness for the reminder that our God goes before them in every situation. There was hope in the messages my friends sent me; that gave me hope.
Being the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, I could only ever understand a small part of the struggle they are all facing right now. My dad was brought to this country at the age of 9, not fully understanding the gravity of his parent’s decision to come illegally. But he loves this country. This is home. As he recounted the story of his naturalization, my dad remembers how he wanted to get his citizenship in time to vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. The opportunity to be an active member in the country he called home was such an exciting prospect.
My hope is that the church will rise up during this time, put politics aside, and see the Dreamers as human beings who are deserving of our support, security, and love. These young people did not choose to come to this country. They were brought here as small children by parents who sought a better life. DACA requirements are extensive; the standard is high for those who wish to be a part of it. Less than .2% of people have their deferral cancelled. These people pay taxes! They are not criminals – they’re our co-workers, peers, neighbors, people who have grown up and become an intricate part of our communities.
DACA was a band-aid covering the monumental problem that is our immigration system. There need to be real, viable paths to citizenship for these students and their families. My hope is that Congress uses the time Trump has given them to provide the basic human need of security to Dreamers and their families. It is time for a true immigration reform for the 1 million undocumented immigrants.
I do not expect perfection from men, institutions, or governments— they will always fall short. My hope and security is instead founded in Jesus– the Author and Perfecter of our faith. That is why I feel that it is our privilege to stand alongside those who are hurting. For me, this looked like conversations with friends who didn’t know what DACA was, marching in Boston for the 1 million undocumented immigrants, and a really long social media post to encourage those in the DACA program.
For you, this could be having conversations with people you normally wouldn’t, to fully understand the repercussions of the Trump administration’s decisions. Chances are, you know someone, or know of someone, in the DACA program. There’s a real fear and anxiety in these people’s lives right now. Inform yourself on the issue, but also the history preceding it. If we truly care for your neighbor, as Christ has commanded us to, we cannot stay complacent and comfortable in our ignorance.