“Migrants are persons… They are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society. The weakest and most vulnerable must be helped. This is a tremendous responsibility, from which no one is exempt if we wish to fulfill the mission of salvation and liberation, in which God has called us to cooperate.”
If you asked the person on the street, “Who are the ‘dreamers?’” more than likely the response would be a stare, or “I have no idea.” Dreamers, or DACA immigrants (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), have faded into the woodwork in the midst of COVID-19. Dreamers work in our businesses, study in our schools, serve in our military and pray in our churches.
In 2012, when President Obama issued an executive order creating DACA, there was hope in the air that Dreamers would become citizens. These immigrants who were brought to the United States as children are innocent victims in a broken immigration system. As one commentator stated, “This is like arresting a two-year-old because its mother stole diapers at Wal Mart.”
Immigration dysfunction and misunderstanding continue in large part because of myths.
- Myth 1:
Immigrants bring crime into the country. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce refutes that myth, stating that the crime rate has plummeted 45% from 1990-2010 and that property crime has dropped 42%.
According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, immigrants collectively contribute an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local coffers, each year with a combination of sales, excise, personal income and property taxes. This begs the question: Does truth matter in our political arena?
- Myth 3: Immigrants are given large amounts of federal help, taking money away from “real” Americans.
Undocumented immigrants … including the young “Dreamers,” are not eligible for federal benefits. But because many undocumented immigrants use a “borrowed” social security number to work, they are paying into a system from which they will never benefit. According to the financial website The Motley Fool, the Social Security program generated a net cash surplus of nearly $3.2 billion, much of that from the payments made by migrants and refugees.
If we listen to the voices of Dreamers, we will consistently hear a desire to serve their country and their families. Denise Rojas, a medical student and DACA recipient from California, is one of those wanting to make a difference in the medical field.
As co-founder of the national organization “Pre-Health Dreamers,” which serves roughly 800 undocumented youth who have aspirations of becoming health professionals, Denise says: “Without DACA, or a long-term immigration remedy, I would not be able to practice as a doctor. DACA has allowed for the significant economic and social incorporation of undocumented persons to American society and has served to benefit communities nationwide. Without fair and just solutions to our immigration system, my future as a physician, and the aspirations and livelihood of millions of undocumented immigrants are in jeopardy.”
The supreme irony of immigrants wanting to serve the country as health care professionals is the fact that the United States continues to face a severe shortage of physicians. According to the Association of Medical Colleges, by 2032 the country will face a shortage of 122,000 physicians.
At a time when we cannot physically embrace each other, we need to turn our attention to embracing “justice for all,” the common good, and the ideals symbolized by the statue that welcomes all.