Last Thursday, students gathered at Common Grounds to participate in a conversation about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Known as the DACA Dialogue, this event planned by EMU students focused on what DACA was, how it benefited recipients, and what its termination means for thousands of people within our Harrisonburg community and across the country.
Sep. 5, 2017, Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA, and no new DACA applications or renewals would be accepted after Oct. 5. Individuals within the EMU community and larger Harrisonburg area are DACA recipients, and the loss of DACA leads toward a time of unrest, uncertainty, and fear in their lives.
DACA allowed children who entered the country illegally to have a renewable two-year deferred action, which allows Dreamers, as they are called, to procure a driver’s licenses, go to college after high school, and secure jobs. This is not a road to citizenship, but a path for individuals to move forward with their lives. DACA allowed for people to follow their dreams and pursue careers.
In response to the abolishment of DACA, members within the EMU community have come together to form the DACA Dialogue Planning Committee, which seeks to educate those who are unaware of DACA and to support DACA recipients as they move forward through this troubled time. The DACA Dialogue on Oct. 5, the chapel the following day, and the speakers at the LSA banquet were the product of the DACA Committee’s efforts.
“[The DACA Committee] was created with the intention of making a safe space to discuss a controversial topic,” said Senior Keyri Lopez-Godoy, a member of the DACA Committee and a recipient of DACA. “We have a huge luxury that EMU is a space where people are able to be different and express their opinion without being afraid of being persecuted or being harmed.”
The termination of DACA affects more than just the DACAmented, and all are going to suffer in the face of its removal. The community needs to come together to support those who will be most deeply affected. “We are all connected in some form or shape and whatever happens with immigration will … come back to you somehow … We are all children of God and we are all called to solidarity with our brothers and sisters at least,” said Lopez-Godoy.
This is not an issue where the mass is powerless to stop further effects. Calling elected officials, finding organizations such as New Bridges Immigrant Resource Center, and keeping an open mind are ways individuals can make a difference and push toward legislative reform. “Just [keep] an open mind, and not just about me as a DACAmented person, but an open mind about differences,” said Lopez-Godoy.
“Do your part to ensure EMU is a hospitable, non-hostile space, especially for our undocumented brothers and sisters. We need to care for each other,” said Assistant professor for the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Tim Seidel, a faculty member on the DACA Dialogue Planning Committee. “Pray, educate, act: these are three important pieces to any response that affects members of our community.”
The dialogues on campus have begun the long process of allowing people to learn about DACA beyond a surface level of knowledge. “I didn’t really know [anything] before going [to the DACA Dialogue.] That was why I wanted to go, to learn more about what it is,” said first-year Sarah Ressler.
The DACA Committee is not done with the events from last week. The committee continues to meet and plan further opportunities for discussions around the campus and hopes to extend events through next semester.