EDITOR’S NOTE: Nico Stacy-Alcántara, a student at Buchanan High School, won a gold medal for this speech in the Team II category at the Fresno County Academic Decathlon on Feb. 3.
In 1996, my father married my mother, a Peace Core volunteer and educator from Wisconsin, in his home country of the Dominican Republic.
To the rich, the Dominican Republic is a tropic paradise; to the natives, it is a place of fear and economic depression. It was for this reason that after saying their vows they emigrated to the United States, leaving behind his parents and six brothers and sister. He came in pursuit of the American dream and the ability to raise a family in a country where a decent wage is possible.
In 1998, my fatherʼs older brother immigrated to Boston with his wife, his two daughters (both in elementary school) and his kindergarten son. The only difference between my fathers immigration story and my uncles is legality.
My uncle couldnʼt achieve legal status for himself or his family. Nonetheless, it was his desire and his hope that the United States could provide a better education and a better life. His new home did not disappoint.
Years later, his eldest daughter, Jeanny, was diagnosed with epilepsy. On one unfortunate night as she was commuting from her high school in the city to her home in the outskirts, she fell down and seized in a park. This traumatic experience pushed her to pursue a career in medicine.
Thanks to Obamaʼs Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals and years of hard work and education, she became a radiologist at a local hospital. She embodies the person that DACA strives to help.
Now the program that educated and allowed my cousin to work – and many others like her to do the same – may cease to exist and for reasons that puzzle me. The current administration, and some in Congress, believe that the current administration overreached in his executive power while drafting the policy.
Whatever the case may be, Congress and the president must protect our DACA immigrants. Immigrants who in good faith put their lives in the hands of the U.S. government believing they would be protected.
Now, it is easy to get caught up in the emotional side of this debate, but it is more important for us to look at this from a statistical and logical standpoint. DACA immigrants are unable to collect Medicaid, and welfare, they do however pay taxes on their income.
Ninety-one percent of DACA recipients are currently employed. They contribute rather than cause a burden on our society. And if there is no suitable replacement for the program our economy could lose $460 billion in the next decade, according to the Center for American progress.
The incarceration rate of Dreamers is much lower than the rate of native-born Americans. We currently have 900 dreamer serviceman defending the constitution in our military right now. And across the country, 1,800 Democrat and Republican Congressman, senators, councilmen, and mayors, support the program.
And the issue is at play here in the Central Valley with 20,000 of our neighbors, friends, families, coworkers, and loved ones benefitting from the program.
Regardless of position, we must see these immigrants for who they are. People. People who were brought here by their parents, so they could have a better life, so they could get an education, raise a family, and so their kids and their kids’ kids can do the same from wherever they may hail from, whether it be México, Sudan, the Dominican Republic.
We must not rip them from their homes in the United States, we must not force them to go to a country they may have no experience of. We must push Congress to act swiftly and without regret into fixing or replacing DACA with a viable solution.
We should, no, we must protect our DACA immigrants.