“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.” – Barack Obama
Both Mia, whom you might know as one of my best friends, and I are daughters of immigrant parents. Both of us, thankfully, are U.S. citizens and do not have to worry about the effects of DACA on ourselves. I was brought to America legally in 2006, and Mia was privileged enough to be born in the “land of the free.”
Both my actual parents and step-parents are immigrants, and Mia’s father was a Cuban refugee. With the DACA decision being made, we wanted to share how we felt…hoping to make others understand how a monumental decision such as this could affect those around you, even people like us who you may think you truly know, when in reality you might not actually comprehend the hardships faced in the immigrant community everywhere.
As a daughter of a Cuban refugee I grew up pretty “normally,” as given the normal standards of life in the U.S.A. I attended great schools, was involved in extracurricular activities, had neighborhood friends, lived in a suburban neighborhood, graduated from high-school, and I am now attending a 4-year University. After being confronted with the news that Trump decided to take away DACA, it put into perspective the life I grew up thinking I lived. Now looking back at my childhood, my father experienced quite a bit of racism. From being at our local Whole Foods and having to “translate” for him because the clerk couldn’t understand him past his “heavy” accent, though he had been living in the USA for over 20 years, to children in my classes asking what’s wrong with the way my father and I talk (given I used to have a slight Spanish accent growing up and so did my father). It infuriates me… the lack of people who are willing to at least TRY to understand someone from another perspective besides his/her own. But more so than infuriated, I am heartbroken. People I grew up with are not aware of these “small” things that we face, and people I am close with now who identify as “Democratic” are reluctant to see the facts on immigration.
I came to the U.S. at the age of 9, not knowing a single word of English. My Romanian step-dad, who was thankfully a U.S. citizen at the time, managed to get all my documents for me so that my mother and I could be together in the U.S. I am eternally thankful for how easy he made my transition into the United States. I was not aware of the significance of those papers at that time. However, even as a “legal alien” I experienced discrimination from day one. In school, I was constantly harassed and bullied, and told to “go back where I came from” and to “learn some English”. I was 9 years old. It wasn’t my fault. I was trying to fit in. At the time, I actually hated America and its ideals. What American dream were people (such as my parents) talking about? Nobody even wanted me to be there.
As I got closer and closer to the ideal “assimilation”, to where I could actually make friends, work towards my goals and education, and experience things like small conversations with my new and loving American friends, I started to love America myself. If you’ve met me, chances are you probably called me your most patriotic friend at least once. None of that changed. I just became more aware of things. Endless scholarly awards, events, and academic and professional achievements made in the United States later, I realize that I had it easy. It’s all because I was legal.
I never quite understood why everyone wanted to see my “green card”, or why I was asked about my other immigrant friends all the time, or why teachers pulled me aside and asked about my family life. I thought it was friendly and casual conversation. Except I was a child getting asked to show my Green Card and getting asked about how I came to America at the age of 9. It wasn’t for “fun,” or because they wanted to “see one (green card) in real life”. It was because there was always doubt about my status. I was privileged enough to afford going to school and getting involved in field trips and extracurricular activities due to my parents being legal and working hard. I wasn’t being questioned 24/7 like other immigrant out there. I also had the drive and motivation to get what I wanted from America, but that’s a whole different story. Or is it? Isn’t that what Dreamers do today? The only difference between a smart, ambitious, and appreciative Dreamer and I is simply that I had a Romanian step-dad who happened to be a citizen. Nothing else. We all want the same things in life. Trump and other supporters of ending DACA assume many things…99% of them are lies. Please read further to understand the misconceptions and how terrifying and horrible ending DACA would be for the massive amount of DACA youth in our country. It is not their fault their parents were undocumented. There are other ways to go about this.
Here are some common misconceptions we want to break and draw attention to:
- Undocumented immigrants DO pay taxes. In fact,… “Collectively, undocumented immigrants in the United States pay an estimated total of $11.74 billion in state and local taxes a year. This includes more than $7 billion in sales and excise taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes, and $1.1 billion in personal income taxes” (https://immigration.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000789)
- And if you are wondering how they pay these income taxes…it is because undocumented immigrants don’t go through life “invisible”. They have houses, apartments, jobs, children who’s education they pay for… and you guessed it… they also pay money at grocery stores/retail shops/restaurants just like you and I do!
- They are able to pay taxes because they are given an ITIN number by the IRS. Even if someone is an “illegal” immigrant, it does not mean they get deported right away…especially if they are working, paying taxes, and spending their income on American-made goods. In fact, many undocumented immigrants pay taxes so that if they are ever confronted at their work places and sent to a judge or ICE, their case is made more legitimate once the judge sees that they have been contributing to society just as a “regular” citizen would.
- Why don’t they just become citizens if they know their parents aren’t documented? Most undocumented Dreamers are actually completely unaware that they are documented. As a person who was privileged enough to have 900$ ($680 for the application and the rest transport to the Immigration Office, fingerprints, passport photos etc.) to spend on becoming a citizen, I can tell you that the system sucks. I met people who had waited over 5 years to become citizens because their applications took so long to review. What happens if you have children? I wasn’t married or had kids, and both of my parents were legal. Smooth sailing…but what goes into that 21-page non-refundable application for an individual who is undocumented, needs to have a Green Card for 5 years prior to applying for citizenship, and has so much more to prove in court? If the system made it easier to become a citizen, trust me, everyone would do it. Most of the people getting affected by today’s decision tried to get documented…. it just took too long. They don’t stay here illegally because they think they are” oh so sneaky” and can just “swim through life on American citizen money”! It is because they are working their assess off to be able to afford to get that citizenship we were discussing earlier. Can we also mention the fact that most of these illegal immigrants come here fleeing from problematic governments and wanting safety? They have yet to learn English while they are trying to find jobs and stability and fighting to become legal. In order to become a citizen you have to be able to afford the Green Card, wait 5 years, get over 700$ to apply for your citizenship, pass the verbal, written, and background test. If you fail in any area, you’re back to step 1 and none of your money gets returned. It is an extremely long process that does not happen overnight.
- How do these immigrants get jobs? That can be explained in an easy manner as well. Due to their willingness to perform the work that most American citizens do not want to do, they get hired. Moreover, most employers do not ask whether or not you are a citizen. If they do, the immigrant will give them their ITIN number, and BOOM, problem solved! Everyone says that illegals steal jobs, so I wonder who will work the fields when all the “criminals” are deported. We must stop placing everyone under the same umbrella terms, and accept the fact that our nation is quite ignorant in the demographics of immigration across our country.
Ultimately, these people are saving up their entire lives to be able to gain citizenship and give their family a better life… just like you native U.S.A. citizens whose grandparents… and great grandparents… and great- great grandparents once did! Now, the children whom they tried so hard to protect and whose futures they try to better, are at risk of losing their whole lives in the country they grew up in and now love.
P.S. Immigrants pay 8% of their income taxes…where as the top 1% only pays 5.4%…that includes the now President of the USA, Donald Trump.
by: Giulia Paulet and Mia Pique