Let me tell you a story. Suppose you meet two girls: Mariana and Juliana. Both are Mexican immigrants. The two girls arrived in the United States before they could talk and are now 17 years old. Both Mariana and Juliana are brilliant students. Mariana is involved in her high school’s Honor Society and Robotics club and dreams of working for Google. Juliana is an ESL tutor and wants to become an English teacher. Both girls belong to stable families who encourage them to pursue their dreams.
Mariana’s parents brought her to the United States without a visa. Without the DACA program, she could be deported, but she has been able to get a job and drive a car because of it.
According to factcheck.org, more than 600,000 people in the United States are DACA recipients, or “Dreamers.” The Trump administration originally stated that “Dreamers” would be unable to renew their provisional legal status starting on March 5. But since the Supreme Court has refused to take DACA cases until the fall, and lower-level courts uphold the DACA program, “Dreamers” will be able to stay in the United States without the threat of being deported — at least for now.
The uncertainty of the situation inspires our compassion, and rightly so.
But there’s another problem. While we beg our representatives to act on behalf of DACA recipients, we forget how extensive the brokenness and unfairness of our immigration system actually is. The same system that rewards Mariana for her hard work robs Juliana of a chance to accomplish her dreams. Why?
Juliana’s parents applied for legal visas and have always maintained their lawful status. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, Juliana cannot receive DACA benefits because she was here lawfully in June 2012, when the program began. Furthermore, according to USCIS, Juliana can only remain in the U.S. permanently if she is under 18 or if her parents have a green card, which can take years or even decades to aquire.
Here’s the problem: Suppose that Mariana and Juliana both turn 18 on March 20 of this year. Under the current situation, Mariana will continue to benefit from the temporary protection of the U.S. government because her parents broke the law to bring her here. But even if Juliana’s parents spent thousands of dollars to bring her here legally, if they do not have a green card when she turns 18, she will become an unlawful resident of the United States and could be deported.
The fact that the DACA program could end is tragic, because people like Mariana might not have a home here. But guess what’s even more tragic? People like Juliana have never had a home in the first place.
Regardless of what happens to “Dreamers,” until lawmakers and journalists acknowledge the problems of legal immigrants and their children, our immigration system will continue to be fundamentally unjust.
Caroline Wolfe, Opinions Editor