Sunday, August 17, 2014

DACA Two Years Later

As someone whose gone through the DACA process and is actively benefiting from it, almost everything I read about the program having failures and faults is nothing more than sensationalism from institutions and non-profits. While DACA is talked about in the media through the same sensationalist lens in explaining why a program that should benefit millions, has only about half a million individuals approved. There are actual studies and hard numbers that go into the numerous obstacles that come when someone can qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but ultimately don't apply. Those that have applied for DACA and by extent, anyone else whose gone through the immigration process here in the US understands first hand how overwhelming it is and how easily one mistake can ruin the entire process for an individual.

It should be clear to most that have a basic understanding of these processes that having the money to apply is the first and sometimes, the biggest hurdle one has to go through. $465 is a lot of money for a working class family/individual, specially when there's a possibility of not being approved for DACA or any other status that has an application fee. After the money, having the right documents to submit is the next biggest hurdle. I didn't apply for DACA until a few months after the program got started, and part of that was collecting evidence. I got lucky and found an old receipt from a lost library book I paid for and my dog's license from the city. If it wasn't for that, my chances of getting approved would have been substantially lower. However, I had the privilege of applying through a non-profit and had lawyer support in case anything took a turn for the worse, a resource only those of us in the "movement" have.

There's an endless list of why an individual who qualifies for DACA won't apply for it. From fear of the government, cultural norms, lack of resources, lack of information, and scheming lawyers are just some of those hurdles. The odds keep stacking against you from there. Unless you're one of those folks that's featured regularly in news stories on being undocumented and doing something that's not common place like being in a Doctorates program or studying some other high class profession that doesn't lend itself to working class/poor immigrants, the government doesn't see you as a priority. The government wants those that will contribute more versus those they see as not being able to contribute enough or nothing at all. It's the kind of rhetoric used by non-profits and movement celebrities.

When the program first rolled out, everyone and their momma were talking about. You'd see everyone coming outta the wood work to take advantage of this new situation. From crooked lawyers and organizations, to non-profits that rolled out their own programs to help their members. All of a sudden everyone was overwhelmed because of the demand for information regarding the program. From how much it would cost to how one would qualify or if it was necessary for one to seek legal help in filling out the application.

I imagine this is how everything went down in the 80s when Regan rolled out his immigration amnesty. Everyone and their mom, clamoring to take advantage and come up in the world. I saw a lot of that through DACA. A surge of individuals who have never been part of movement and/or organizing spaces for one reason or another. They all wanted help with DACA with an urgency that I've never seen before. Everyone wanted to get theirs and peace out, which I can understand. While it may require pulling some teeth, if someone can qualify for DACA, they'll find the money and resources to apply, there's no doubt about that. They will lie on the application to cover up anything that may cause trouble and go to crooked lawyers and notaries to make it happen.

The only times I hear talk of an individual not applying for DACA on some moral principle or because of the politics involved is someone who claims they're "radical" or "revolutionary." If you're anti-government, anti-DACA or basically anti-anything that is short of demanding unrealistic changes the US government will make, then you need a pie to face. But that's just a waste of a good pie. They all talk big game to the point of saying something to the affect of
 rather dying on their feet than living on their knees. It's just like the Dave Chappell skit "when keeping it real goes wrong." 

At the end of the day though, all I see is everyone is fighting with themselves in trying to take credit for whatever happens and being at the metaphorical table when it's being talked about. People will get screwed and left out will others will be thrusted into the lime light as examples of how whatever happens can affect individuals positively. It comes down to nothing more than a show and tell when you get to that level of working with institutions and non-profits, which is more often than not a mirror for those that work in those spaces.

My DACA renewal is already coming up toward the end of the year, I will be applying again and I know that I will be approved. For someone whose been a straight arrow on paper and with legal resources at my disposal, it's something I don't even think twice about. I haven't done anything that will disqualify me from re-applying and have been working three different jobs at the same time. Again, I'm an exception to a lot of things not because I'm above average or anything of the sorts, I have resources from being in movement spaces.

I had a kind of stability before my DACA kicked in, and when it finally came through, I didn't go through a dramatic process or change. I was 29 and my reactions would have been worlds apart if I had gone through this 10 years ago. Getting DACA wasn't life altering, it just made things easier for me. To work in spaces that previously had difficulties because of my lack of legal status. I've been undocumented for 23 years and I know how to navigate the system to do what I need to do. Those that are younger aren't as wily for different reasons, most prevalent is that they'll no longer have to be.

There's a stark difference in how the immigrants rights movement looks now and how it looked 10 years ago. Things have gotten better for the few and have gotten worse for the rest. There's no doubt that DACA will continue on for the foreseeable future and that other stuff will happen in-between. Do I have any fears or worries about the DACA program being terminated and being assed out again? Sure, just like I wonder if I'll be hit by a bus on my way to work, but that doesn't stop me from moving forward.

I've come a long way from the days of being scarred to share my real name online because I'm undocumented. If DACA were to end tomorrow, I know there would be an alternative or a kind of compensation for those in the program. As fucked up as the government is, I doubt it would do anything to those in the DACA program if it came to an end. If anything, there'll probably something along the lines of being permanent residency because of the redundant system that is in place and the government doesn't want all these new tax payers going any where.

I've taken full advantage of having DACA short of being able to qualify for health insurance. I still have to hustle, but I have the space to do other things I want here and there. While I've detached myself from being active in immigration spaces, I have been more active in other social justice spaces because of what I learned all those years in the Dream Act trenches.

I'm not the kind of person to plan too far ahead into the future. The older I get, the more emphasis I put in things that are personally rewarding for me and by extension, those around me. The options of always working toward something greater in terms of finishing college and beyond are always there, but that's not me. I'm not one for academia or being institutionalized like that. More power to those that can and have worked those systems, but that ain't me, yet I'm not completely closed off to such aspirations. I just like taking things as they come.