My brother and I didn’t choose to become Alaskans. He legally emigrated with my parents from the Philippines before he turned five years old, unaware of the concept of immigration, and mostly concerned with learning English and becoming “an American boy”. Four years later, I was born here at Providence Hospital, becoming the only person in my family lucky enough to instantly be American and avoid the citizenship process. We are a family of immigrants who are just as Alaskan as anyone else: we vote in every local election, pay taxes, and enjoy taking pictures of the surprise moose appearance. Even though we never chose to become Americans, our citizenship granted us the opportunity to drive, work, and attend UAA without worry.
Similarly, young undocumented people (known as “DREAMers”) who share my brother’s experience did not choose to come to America. But, they live under a greater threat of deportation because of circumstances they could not control as children; a lot of these individuals were even unaware that they were undocumented until they tried to get a driver’s license or apply to college. In 2012, the passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) finally protected these DREAMers from deportation and allowed them to work legally in the United States.
Alaska has a small DACA population: according to Alaska Dispatch News, 138 people in Alaska have DACA status, a majority of recipients are from Mexico, and are between 16 and 25 years old. These DREAMers consider Alaska home – because it the only home they have ever known. DACA has changed the lives of these Alaskans, allowing them to legally drive, to work, and attend college just like me. Yet, a future for them in America has now reached great uncertainty.
It is cruel that the Trump administration has begun to unravel the threads that have allowed DREAMers to finally become part of the American cloth. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that six months from now, the Trump administration will stop accepting new applications for DACA, kicking the responsibility to Congress to reauthorize the law. I value the rule of law too, but it is simply abhorrent to punish DREAMers for a crime they could not avoid as a child.
Congress is our greatest hope to protect DACA. I appreciate Senator Lisa Murkowski for her support in upholding DACA, and I am disappointed in the values of Senator Dan Sullivan and Representative Don Young: prioritizing an irrationally strict adherence to the rule of law, rather than accommodating for DREAMers who contribute as much to Alaska as me.
Every day, I am so thankful to be an American citizen, even though I did not choose to become one. Young immigrants do not threaten our country. They are our friends. They are my family. And DREAMers deserve the same rights as me and my brother.
Genevieve Mina, President of the UAA College Democrats and double-major in Biological Sciences and Political Science