Don’t Mourn DACA Just Yet
We must refuse to uphold the colonial logic underlying claims of legal presence and borders.
By Natascha Uhlmann
The Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is morally repugnant. This much is self evident — no human being is illegal, period.
But we can do better.
DACA granted a sense of normalcy to a young generation that has known no other home. It has spared some, at least, from a heinous deportation apparatus. But as much as it was a resource for anti-deportation advocates, so too it was a tool for ICE. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the department that manages DACA applications, states that they do not share information with immigration officials except in the event of criminal offenses or threats to public safety.
This language, draped in fear, shields ICE from scrutiny as they terrorize migrant communities. Benign — and often class linked — offenses like jumping a subway turnstile are sufficient to have one’s information turned over. These provisions, alongside the systemic racialization of police violence means that lower class immigrants of color have a constant target on their backs. In aggressively pursuing minor infractions of this nature, ICE has effectively made poverty a deportable offense.
Throughout the existence of DACA, USCIS has asserted that their choice not to share its database with ICE does not confer any rights or legal protections — they reserve the right to rescind the policy at any time, and without notice. The application requests sensitive personal information, including a detailed list of current and prior residences.
DACA forced young immigrants into an unfair gamble — in seeking relief under the program, applicants trusted the government with not just their personal information but also that of their households. The fear of getting on ICE’s radar is immobilizing — it keeps immigrant families from accessing vital social services. Ever so quietly, an ostensively progressive policy put countless immigrant families at risk.
In its eligibility requirements, DACA upheld a damaging myth of the deserving immigrant. The program was open only to young people who attended school or joined the armed forces, linking an immigrant’s right to stay with their inherent value to US empire. But immigrants are worth more than their contributions to the market. Immigrants are deserving, even where they are not model students, or soldiers, or consumers. Lest we forget: immigrants are here because America was there — US imperialism is directly responsible for generations of terror and instability across the globe.
DACA was an urgent stopgap, yes, but we can — and must — do better. We must refuse to uphold the colonial logic underlying claims of legal presence and borders. We must recognize the historic role of US intervention in creating these crises, and resist it ardently in present day. We must build radically inclusive movements, offering promise not just to model immigrants, but for all.
Author Bio: Natascha Elena Uhlmann is a writer and anti-deportation activist from Sonora, Mexico. She is way too interested in radical geography.