So many of us, so much of the time, operate with such a degree of certainty that we feel emboldened to speak our minds with impunity—whatever the damage. When a woman speaks of how sexism has affected her life, so many (men) will shout into the wind all the ways she is wrong. When a black man speaks of his experiences of systemic and personal injustice, so many (white) people will drown out his voice with a cacophony of their own.
How powerful it is to listen, to truly hear, and to reorient ourselves to view a situation from another’s vantage point. How powerful is empathy. And in the wake of it, how much more powerful are our actions.
Now, in the messy aftermath of the DACA ruling, this same ugly pattern reasserts itself. I pray that this time we could listen, and then, in turn, stand for grace and justice.
A student who graduated from the high school I teach at (before I started working here) was recently featured on our local NPR station, highlighting her plight as a DACA recipient now that the DACA is being abolished.
Her story is sadly a common one—yet heart rending and powerful. Like many Dreamers, she arrived here when she was only a toddler, excelled in school, and then faced the uncertain fate of life as an undocumented. She wanted to further her education, but she couldn’t secure federal loans, or even qualify for in-state tuition, so her undergraduate career stretched out over eight years, taking what classes her family could afford while working odd jobs in construction, house cleaning, childcare, etc.
In her own words, before DACA she “had little hope for the future,” but then when she was approved for her DACA work permit her “life changed completely.” She secured a great internship and began to live without the pall of an uncertain fate casting its long shadow over her life.
Her testimony is a powerful one. And yet, in the comments on her Facebook post, the same tired dialogue gets played out again and again.
“Not getting your papers to be a legal citizen is not very smart.”
“The only problem I have is if you have been here 25 yrs why haven’t you applied for citizenship to this great country that you seem to appreciate so much????????”
“DACA is a slap in the face to all of US, yes me included, that did it the right way!!”
Worse are the comments played out on our national stage. Demands that DACA recipients pay back the tax dollars they’ve stolen through Medicaid and food stamps. Fear mongering about the crime rates of these pernicious foreigners.
Never mind the fact that Dreamers have no route to citizenship. Never mind the fact that they pay income taxes but cannot even be eligible for social programs like welfare. Never mind that they cannot have a criminal record to even be eligible for their work permit.
They came when they were children. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you lean toward, listen to their stories. Learn, feel before you speak.
By way of parting, I’ll leave you with this young woman’s concluding thoughts themselves, as it’s fitting to let her have the final word.
“It is more than just a piece of paper. This permit allows me to exist and without it, many brilliant people with so much promise will fade back into obscurity. Before you type or say anything negative about DACA or its recipients, know that we are your children’s childhood friends, your current educators, and healthcare providers, but also know that we are people, just like you, wanting to work for our families.”