I don’t know any other way to say this: When I heard that the administration planned to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed almost a million young people who came to the United States without legal documentation to come out of the shadows and reach for the American Dream, my heart broke. That in 2017 we are still acting in ways that target specific ethnic groups is almost more than I can bear.
You have to understand: In my community, Kanas City, Kansas, we are a tapestry of cultures. Before white men and women entered the territory, there were a mixture of native American tribes: Delaware, Shawnee, Wyandot. And as the city grew, we established a patchwork of neighborhoods: Argentine, Armourdale, Armstrong, Fairfax, Quindaro, and Riverview. We have always been a mosaic of different races: Black, white, Hispanic, native American, north African, southeast Asian, eastern European.
In the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, diversity is who we are; it is our strength! It is through our diversity that we are raising truly incredible children. Children and youth who are contributing each day to the betterment of their families, our community and our nation. Let’s be frank: Whether they were born here or brought here, our kids and their families are looking for many of the same things that each of us is pursuing. A quality life, filled with more moments of joy than sadness; a life filled with more opportunities than obstacles; and a life filled with more hope than despair. We are all “dreamers!”
I feel deep sadness, and frankly disgust, at the decision by the Administration to end the DACA program. Has my country changed so much that we are no longer standing behind our nation’s creed of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all men (and women)? Are we really willing to discard 800,000 youth, who believed in our promise that America would do what is right by them? Our country invited these children to come out of the shadows, to register, stay in school, maintain a job and contribute to the economy. In exchange, we would issue work permits and afford these individuals the opportunity to openly pursue the American Dream. America used to be a country that stood on the principle that our words meant something. “Dream, young people,” said our nation. Well, that dream is about to become a nightmare for nearly a million young people.
What makes this so difficult to understand is that the action to end DACA targets our most vulnerable youth, while failing to acknowledge that our history is filled with examples of individuals who came to this country outside of an official immigration process. Remember all those who came, shackled in chains, on slave ships? And nobody talks about the 1929 Registry Act, which allowed “honest law-abiding alien[s] who may be in the country under some merely technical irregularity” to register as permanent residents and pay a $20 fee, if they could prove they had lived in the country since 1921 and were of “good moral character.” Of course, the vast majority of those who took advantage of that act came from Europe.
What I want my students and families to know is this: We value our diversity. It does not matter to us in KCKPS if you were born here or brought here. You matter to us. We will do everything in our power to ensure you are safe, and that you receive a quality education. We will advocate for you and with you. I pray Congress moves quickly to do what is right for these youth, and for our country. We are facing yet another defining moment in our history. This moment will either advance our standing as a nation of compassion and reason, or… well you get the point. “It’s Up to Us!”