I was too little to remember the first time my family uprooted me, taking me as a toddler from my hometown to Los Angeles when my dad went to UCLA. Nor do I remember the terrible car crash that ended his college career and sent him home to recuperate, or a later move to Ogden to launch his own business as a piano tuner.
I do remember, though, leaving my first crush behind when my family moved from Ogden back to Idaho Falls to help out my mom’s parents, who were growing old. It was during the summer between second and third grade. I was heartbroken.
I was also a child with no choice in the move — no more than 8 at the time, entirely dependent on my parents and what they figured was best for our family.
It would be laughable to suggest that I had responsibility for those decisions that determined the place of my early childhood. My job was to be a little kid and adapt and make new friends in my new community and do OK in school.
Donald Trump recently announced that he’s ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And I can’t help but think of my early moves and how little say I had — as in, precisely none.
DACA could just as easily stand for the “Decency Act for Childhood Arrivals,” given they didn’t make decisions that broke the law. Those decisions were made for them. DACA has allowed people who were brought here without proper immigration status when they were children to remain, as long as they meet certain qualifications. They must have arrived before they were 16, and been here since at least June 15, 2007. They must have been good citizens: in school, or finished an education or been honorably discharged from the military, with no felonies or serious misdemeanors — and no more than three minor misdemeanors, which can include things like some traffic infractions or trespassing, among others. It’s also time-limited: It doesn’t apply to new arrivals, so it won’t create an incentive for families to move here illegally.
The kids to whom DACA applies are called “Dreamers,” and I’ve known and loved probably more of them than I’ve realized over the years: bright-eyed, happy little boys and girls in our local schools. A few I learned for sure didn’t have legal status when they tried prior to DACA to go to college or get jobs. I know one young man who had no idea he was not just like all of his friends at school until he tried to apply to college several years ago. He’s the older brother of a girl I've known for years. He arrived here when he was 2. He has two little sisters who were born here and don’t have to worry about it. And if you were to send him back to the land of his birth, it would be an unspeakably cruel act.
He has always been here, always loved America, always been a good student, a hard worker, a good citizen. Deporting him would put him in a culture he doesn’t know or claim, among people who speak a language that is not his.
And it wouldn’t do a single thing for any of us. It would just uproot him.
We wouldn’t be safer. We wouldn’t be smarter. We would just be missing a great young man who is honorable and loving and is trying very hard to be a good citizen because he loves America and wants to stay and knows that any misstep could send him away.
Immigration enforcement should not land on the backs of the innocent who were brought here when they were little and had no say. That does not reflect the decency and humanity that I like to believe is the core of who Americans are.
The Dreamers should be part of the American Dream — and we should be glad for what they’ll add to our mutual future.