As the new administration begins, immigrant workers around the country are fearful that President Donald Trump will follow through with his campaign pledges to deport millions of members of our unions and our communities and that he also will strip away basic protections for immigrants who were brought to our country as children. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has allowed hundreds of thousands of aspiring Americans and union members to live and work without fear in the United States. In light of Congress’ failure to create a pathway to citizenship for millions of hardworking immigrants, the labor movement strongly supports this deferred action program and has called for it to be expanded so that all working people will have the status to assert their rights on the job and stand up together to prevent abuse and exploitation.
Instead of expanding rights and protections for more working people, Trump has threatened to strip away work authorization from more than 700,000 productive members of our workforce who are actively contributing to our society and our community every day. The devastating impact that such a punitive policy reversal could have is best understood by getting to know the personal stories of DACA recipients. The following excerpts from a blog by Maria E. Dominguez, a first grade bilingual teacher from Austin, Texas, demonstrates just how valuable the program has been for all of us:
I can’t help but reflect on how DACA has changed my entire life, both professionally and personally. After being granted DACA, I had the opportunity to pursue my life dream of being a public school teacher. Thanks to DACA I am able to serve my community as a first grade public school bilingual teacher. In addition, I was able to obtain a driver’s license and travel within the United States. Another one of my dreams came true when I was granted advance parole with DACA and, in July of 2014, I traveled to my hometown in Guanajuato, Mexico, after more than 20 years. I saw my grandmother, cousins and other relatives who I had not seen in decades. It was an incredible experience for my whole family.
As a member of Education Austin and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), I have been granted the opportunity to work with the immigrant community—in particular, undocumented youth. I have volunteered at the citizenship drives offered by Education Austin and at DACA forums and clinics held in partnership with University Leadership Initiative in Austin, Texas. I have helped U.S. residents fill out their citizenship applications and DREAMers fill out their DACA application as part of my commitment to Education Austin and AFT. I have also worked with community leaders to bring essential information to the parents at my school for the first time. Finally, I have shared my knowledge and my personal story as a DACAmented teacher during educational forums and teacher conferences because I believe in the power of collective action.
I could not do what I do every single day in the classroom if it were not for [then-]President [Barack] Obama’s executive action on immigration. I only wish that Republicans in Congress would muster the same political courage to address our broken immigration system. DACA works, and I’m testament of that, but it only covers a small portion of our population. It is a small fight that we won, but we need to keep working in order to see a bigger change that can benefit others who will not qualify for DACA. Even though we might only see small steps now, I know that if we keep working, we’re going to see a huge change that will benefit everyone. Immigration should not be used to score cheap political points. We’re talking about people’s lives—people like me, who want nothing more than to contribute to our communities. Join me today and call for a permanent solution to our broken immigration system. Our families and our communities can’t wait.