Ivan Natividad: What if you were a Dreamer?
The picture of my father meeting former President Ronald Reagan was a staple in my household growing up.
As a young boy I remember walking by it everyday wondering why it was important enough to frame and place on a shelf with the rest of our photos.
It wasn’t until I was older that I understood.
As a young man growing up in an impoverished area in the Philippines my father joined the U.S. Navy and traveled on a ship to serve in different countries toward the tail end of the Vietnam War.
Through his service he and my mother gained American citizenship. In the 1980s he was stationed in Hawaii, where I was born.
We would move around a lot particularly throughout California, but I think his most treasured time was his service in the White House during the Reagan administration.
I mean there he was, a young man from Baguio City working in the White House, serving the highest office in the country.
Hence, the photo.
I think for him, it was a representation of the hard work and sacrifices he made to get to the United States as an immigrant.
Personally, I’m not really sure how he did that. To just up and leave your family and life — everything you knew — to serve a country you’ve only seen in the movies.
But I’m glad he did.
I’m glad that as an immigrant, he had the foresight to see how much more this country could offer his growing family, and that he proudly served it for more than 20 years.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced plans to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a federal policy giving temporary legal immigration status to people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the U.S. would end the program in March 2018, leaving the status of almost 800,000 people who currently benefit from the program uncertain.
Congress, though, has up to six months to find a legislative alternative, as new applications for the program after Sept. 5 will no longer be accepted.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted Dreamers “that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period” that “you have nothing to worry about – No action!” though specifics on policy were not explained.
The DACA program was created by the Obama administration in 2012 after Congress failed to pass the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act, hence the Dreamers, which would have offered those who had arrived illegally as children the chance of permanent legal residency.
Then President Barrack Obama pushed DACA through as an executive order to give Dreamers, who are vetted for any criminal history or threat to national security, the temporary right to live, study and work legally in America.
While supporters of DACA have come forward from both sides of the isle, those upset with President Trump for scrapping the policy should also look to blame former-President Obama for pushing the policy through as an executive order, giving our sitting president the ability to reverse it.
It is also Congress who has been unable to pass the Dream Act since 2001. Getting rid of the program will either leave nearly a million Dreamers hanging in the fold, or force Congress to actually push something through.
But politicians on the Hill seem to be doing what they always do when it comes to federal policies that affect average citizens — blame the other side and hope to prevail.
Politically, the only thing I’m registered as is an organ donor, and I think it is important to look beyond political tribalism when it comes to things that affect actual people. Not political parties, or Super PACS… But actual people that we live amongst and know.
The only way I can form a perspective about this issue is introspectively, as I think using any generalizations would be unfair to the 800,000 Dreamers involved.
As the child of an immigrant who entered this country legally, I know that perspective is limited given the issue, but I think it’s important that we at least try to have a sense of empathy and put ourselves in their shoes.
Trying to relate through the lens of a father, as my father before me, I try my best to give my kids the opportunities I didn’t have. Does that mean breaking the law and entering a country illegally? No.
But do I understand the desire to do that so your kids could grow up in a country with more privileges? Yes.
For my father, due to the colonial history between the U.S. and the Philippines at the time there was good opportunity for him, and other like-minded individuals, to join the U.S. Navy or Air Force.
But what if he did it illegally and I was a Dreamer? How would I feel about having to be punished for something he did? Is that fair?
I am in my early 30s, so I fall in the age group of Dreamers, 15 to 36, and as someone who moved around a lot as a child I know wherever my parents moved to, I went. No questions asked.
Did I necessarily know where we were moving every time? To be honest, I’m not sure. As a kid I wasn’t thinking about possible federal laws I might be breaking by moving somewhere with my parents.
They were my parents, they were in charge of me, and I loved them.
Unless Congress passes legislation allowing a new policy for temporary or permanent legal immigration, as their statuses lapse Dreamers could be deported back to their place of birth, countries that many have no familiarity with.
For me that would be mind-boggling.
As a first-generation American citizen I deeply identify with this country as a part of my identity. So to be forced to leave a place where I’ve grown up, built relationships, studied, worked, paid taxes and contributed to in many different ways throughout my life would be terrifying.
Where would my kids go? Where would I live and work? What would happen to my home? Would I ever see my wife again?
The nearly 1 million Dreamers that will be affected by the termination of DACA are now asking themselves these questions. And I think for us as a society, we have a duty to understand that they are more than just pawns in a political landscape being used by both sides. They are more than just numbers tallied in our country’s economic workforce statistics.
They are teachers, students, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, friends and neighbors.
And some, like my father, are soldiers serving our country in the hopes of creating a better future for their family.
To contact Digital Editor Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4242.
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“There is a cult of ignorance in this country … nurtured by the false notion that ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov, 1980.