(This post originally appear at the “Get Schooled” blog at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You can click here to read it there. The essay is being reposted with Jaime Rangel’s permission)
Jaime Rangel is a Dalton State College student now working as an intern in Atlanta. Brought to the United States as an infant, Rangel is part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which enables him to attend college.
By Jaime Rangel
I’m a “Dreamer”— I was brought to the United States illegally when I was 6 months old; before I could walk, before I could talk, and long before I had any rights to make legal decisions of my own. I love America. I work hard, follow the rules, and because I grew up in Georgia, I speak with a southern accent. The United States is my home, and I don’t know any other – which is why it is so frightening to think that I could be facing possible deportation to a country I have never known.
During the 2016 presidential election, President Trump focused much of his rhetoric on the issue of our country’s immigration system. He threatened to end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed me to legally stay and study in the United States since 2012.
I’m a student at Dalton State College, studying finance and economics. I hope someday to work in governmental affairs and work with our elected officials on policies that can help my state remain the number one state to do business. I want to help my community grow, prosper, or as Gov. Nathan Deal said recently on his state of the state “accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative.”
But I may not get the chance. While President Trump has indicated that he may be open to working with Congress on a solution that will allow Dreamers like me to stay in the United States, it is imperative to keep the DACA issue at the forefront of the national conversation about immigration, and encourage Congress to work with the president to find a solution to this important issue.
Dreamers like me consider ourselves Americans, and only want the same chance at achieving the American Dream as our fellow countryman. We all had to apply to qualify for DACA—including comprehensive background checks—and 90 percent of the approximately 750,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. have jobs, while many others are students and still more have started their own successful businesses. We are your friends, neighbors, teachers, students, doctors—and even family.
The good news is, Senators Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-SC introduced legislation in January that would allow DACA recipients like me to stay, work, and study in the United States. The bill, known as the BRIDGE Act, has garnered the official support of a bipartisan group of senators, and a companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives as well. I strongly encourage the entire Georgia federal congressional delegation to join their ranks and support this common-sense, forward-looking legislation.
I believe that, as Americans, we can find a way forward—we can both fix our immigration system and reject racism and xenophobia. But Latinos, Muslims, and people of color need to make sure our voices are heard and our votes are counted. And we must show our support for the legislators who are willing to work with us and the legislation that will help improve our lives.
Keeping DACA, instituting a similar program, or passing legislation such as the BRIDGE Act makes both moral and economic sense. The United States made a promise to Dreamers who came out of the shadows as I did—our government should keep that promise. Forcibly removing hundreds of thousands hard-working students, workers, and business owners from our country will do nothing to make us more safe, and will almost certainly make us less prosperous, and indeed, less great.