As a child, your life is controlled by the adults that are in it. Everything you do, everything you wear, everywhere you go is decided by your caretakers — what kind of food you will eat, what kind of shirt you will wear that day and what place you will live in.
Sixteen years ago, at not even 2 years old, I came to the United States from Belarus with my parents. Fortunately for me, I never worried about my citizenship status in this country because I was a minor, and as a minor, all of the legal formalities would lay in the hands of my guardians. But what if my parents never went through naturalization? What if I never became a U.S. citizen? As it is for any immigrant child, every action that my parents decided to take was entirely out of my own control.
In 2012, the Obama administration created an immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors — known as Dreamers — to receive up to two years deferral from deportation, to be eligible for a work permit and to study. However, during his campaign, President Donald Trump vowed to end the program, and on Tuesday, the Trump administration announced the end of DACA.
Immigrant children seldom have a choice when it comes to leaving one country to go to another, let alone whether or not it will be done legally. As a minor, you rely on your parents to get you the legal status that you need to thrive in this country. But when parents don’t take action, what can children do? The answer is simple: nothing.
Those who are U.S. citizens probably don’t think anything of their citizenship status; it’s simply something they were born with. It may not seem like much, but for immigrants it’s everything — their past, present, and especially their future. I haven’t lived outside of the United States for more than one year and nine months of my life and know no other lifestyle. Send me back to my birthplace and I would have no family, no shelter, no job and no education. Send me back and I would be starting from square one at 18 years old in a country that is, although technically considered my homeland, completely strange to me.
These children grow up here, go to school, make friends, continue their education, maybe even work and build lives for themselves. They know no other life, no other country. Hell, some of them may not even know that they’re not U.S. citizens. Just like a mother who chooses a shirt for her child to wear, it’s the parents who chose to come here and to do so illegally. But just as the child with the shirt, the Dreamers had no say in the decision to come to the United States, so why should they be punished?
Deporting someone to a country that they have never known because their parents came here illegally many years ago isn’t going to fix anything. It will not teach anyone a lesson and will not do anyone any good. Rather, nearly 800,000 people will lose everything that they have worked for. They will lose their education and their friends and, most importantly, a future with opportunities for which immigrants from all over the world have been coming to the United States since the country was founded.
However, it is, unfortunately, not up to me whether or not Dreamers should be given the path to citizenship, but still, I hope Congress takes action and decides to keep the DACA policy alive. Giving people who illegally came to this country as minors a status of permanent residency and the opportunity to continue to work and study in the United States would be a generous act on behalf of Congress and would uphold the traditions that America is built on.