By Diane Evia-Lanevi
As the founder and board chair of The Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students, a scholarship fund for North Carolinian Hispanic/Latino students, I have had the pleasure of watching countless DACA recipients—referred to as Dreamers—earn college degrees and become teachers, researchers, consultants, and scientists. They truly make our country great.
Yesterday, President Trump announced that he is ending DACA, leaving more than 800,000 young Americans vulnerable to deportation. I know that many of these young people are unimaginably anxious about their futures in the United States.
To my DACA friends:
I’ve struggled over the last few weeks with what to say as rumors persist that the end of DACA is near. I have a few things to share with you.
As I have often told undocumented students seeking higher education in the U.S., NO ONE can take away your education once you’ve completed it. It is yours for the rest of your life.
NO ONE can tell you that you do not belong in this country. You have been raised and educated in this country, and you have been dedicated to its ideals while honoring your birth culture.
NO ONE can strip you of your immigrant dreams of a better life. Those dreams belong to you.
I started The Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students in 2009 because I believe in your right to access education and employment following your successful degree completion. But, mostly, I believe in you as the students I’ve met over the past eight years – whether you were Fund recipients or not.
You have impressed me beyond words. You have changed my life through knowing you. More importantly, you have forever changed your lives and that of your families.
Dreamers were brought as children to this country by their parents without documentation. DACA, an executive order issued in 2012 by President Obama, protected them from deportation while also granting them work and driving permits. For many, DACA not only diminished their fear of being deported but significantly improved their economic status through employment, higher salaries, and car and home ownership.
Despite appeals from some members of Congress and overwhelming public support for Dreamers, the President has rescinded the DACA program. Without legislation offering them a path to citizenship, these young people face deportation beginning on March 5, 2018, not to mention the loss of work and driving permits.
Rather than deporting and alienating Dreamers, our country should hold them up as an example of what is possible.
Despite coming from financially-challenged backgrounds as undocumented immigrants, their determination to succeed is awe-inspiring, not just to me but to everyone they meet. DACA has changed the lives of these students. Two scholarship recipients of The Tomorrow Fund now work at Duke University as researchers thanks to DACA and their college degrees. Another one is based in the Northeast as a consultant for one of the world’s largest consulting firms. Other DACA recipients include several NC public school teachers, an MBA student, and an MBA graduate, and several researchers and scientists with pharmaceutical companies. The list goes on.
The DACA program has demonstrated that 800,000 plus talented and motivated young adults are contributing Americans worthy of a future free from fear of deportation as citizens.
No one – including the government – can take away their education. But if Congress doesn’t act quickly, these young people might lose the country they love. They will leave behind family, friends, and a country far worse off for deporting these young people.
Diane Evia-Lanevi is the founder and board chair of the Tomorrow Fund and serves on the NC Child Board of Directors.