COMMENTARY: For a nation of immigrants, stripping away DACA begs the question of 'now what?'


By Henry E. Ibe

Uncertainty, fear and hopelessness, these are the general feelings that exist in the immigration communities in America. These feelings are mostly prevalent amongst the DACA recipients, especially with the recent March 5 deadline given to Congress by the President to pass legislation for a long term solution for DACA Dreamers. (On Monday, a federal judge in Maryland ruled that the government has the legal right to wind down DACA. However, the ruling doesn't change U.S. District Judge William Alsup's nationwide injunction from January and therefore had no immediate impact.) But let's not be deceived into thinking that the President's action was born of his good will. The President has made it perfectly clear where he stands on immigration and how he feels about immigrants. He chose to abruptly cancel DACA on September 5, 2017 without having a suitable replacement to take its place.

Immigration remains a controversial topic in America. The dichotomous struggle is spearheaded on one side by arguments for maintaining safety, protecting our borders, and domestic economic growth, and on the other side by arguments for permitting immigrants who are willing and able to pledge allegiance, as well as contribute to the continued growth and development of our country.

Notwithstanding, the President's cancelation of DACA was not motivated by either argument. One can surmise that the President's action was prompted by his political agenda; he ransoms the lives of DACA Dreamers as a bargaining chip, while attempting to undo the legacy of his predecessor. But his action only widens the chasm that already exists in the country today.

DACA is, or better yet, was a policy passed by former President Barack Obama. The policy, fully known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was established in 2012 through the executive power of the president, and was put in place due to Congress's continued failure in implementing laws to remedy the plight of Dreamers. These Dreamers were brought to the United States as children and in some cases, as infants with no choice in the matter. They consider the United States their home, in their hearts and minds they are Americans, but not on paper. President Obama established DACA as a way to provide Dreamers with temporary status and work permits, as long as they are able to satisfy the set criteria. DACA was meant to keep the Dreamers' hopes and aspirations of becoming recognized as "Americans" alive, until Congress provides a lasting solution. However, those who opposed the passing of DACA have argued that the former President exceeded the bounds of his power and as such, DACA is unconstitutional.

Nonetheless, DACA served to do more good than harm for America, but since it's being stripped away, the lingering question is, "now what?"

The current President's policies, actions and speeches favor more restrictive immigration reforms. He has a track record of demonizing and demeaning immigrants. He uses his platform to bully, sow the seeds of fear, hatred and prejudice amongst the American people. Contrary to the President's rhetoric, the vast majority of immigrants are not people lacking in morals, criminals, or members of MS-13 or the Latin Kings. In fact, most immigrants come to this country in pursuit of the "American Dream," leaving countries where they and their loved ones are impacted by wars, poverty, dictatorships and a host of other ills. Consequently, they try to stay free and clear from committing crimes because they know fully well that any criminal involvement could hinder their opportunities in America and negatively affect those of their families. Regardless, the President's stance is in opposition of immigration.

As such, we turned to Congress for solutions, and here still, we have found none. Despite the few that have vocalized their support for Dreamers and pushed for favorable immigration reforms, as a whole, Congress has failed to provide any concrete plan or rectification for DACA. The law makers spend their time bickering and pointing accusatory fingers against their oppositions, rather than doing anything meaningful for the people they are supposed to serve. They play their "political games" and hold each other to a stalemate, with the awareness that the lives of an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 DACA recipients will be impacted negatively.

Thus, we look to the American people, a nation of immigrants. President John F. Kennedy once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." As a people, we have become complacent contributing to the problem. We have turned a blind eye and stayed silent to the plight of Dreamers and immigrants in the country. We have been passive, paying lip service because we believe their problems do not impact us directly. Yet, we call the Dreamers our friends, teachers, co-workers and neighbors. In reality, this is not just a DACA problem or an immigrant problem but rather, it is an America problem. Offering up our sympathies to those directly impacted is no longer acceptable because it is within our power to do more. Voting for representatives that are not qualified and do not have the interest of all within our borders will only lead the country to ruin. Until we unite as a people, opening up our eyes to the injustice inflicted against our fellow men/women and speak up against it, our policies and laws will continue to be influenced by the prejudice, bigotry, and xenophobia of the few in power.

There is a pressing need to help the DACA Dreamers, but there is also a need for favorable immigration reforms. As DACA comes to an end, we are offered the opportunity to remedy the injustice and unfairness that the Dreamers face. We cannot continue to treat them as anything less than citizens; their only recourse is a path way to citizenship. In doing so, we erase the notion of hypocrisy that exists in the eyes of our people and the world at large. But our quest for fairness and justice for the DACA Dreamers cannot come at the expense of immigration as whole. We cannot take one step forward only to take two steps back. The current administration seeks to limit legal immigration and obtain funding to build their border, in exchange for the pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers. Contrary to what they would like us to believe, family-based immigration or as they have referred to it "chain immigration" does not threaten our safety, the security of our borders, or our way of life as Americans. This is a clear example of people in power using fear as a tool to undo the founding principles of our nation. Our immigration policies should unify families, not tear them apart; it should provide opportunities, not extinguish them; it should build bridges, not walls; and it should be fair, not unjust.

The time is now for us to accomplish something great as a nation. We, as a people can kill two birds with one stone. We can remedy the injustice and unfairness experienced by the DACA Dreamers, while passing favorable immigration reforms that would mend our broken immigration system. The choice is within our grasp; let us give hope to "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." In doing so, we stay true to the ideals that have made America the land of opportunity, the home of the brave and land of the free. The time to be passive is behind us, it's time to act, and it's time to rise up.


Henry Ibe is the principal attorney at H.I. Legal PLLC in Southfield. His practice focuses on immigration and family law.

Published: Fri, Mar 09, 2018