By Jubilee Baez
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allowed nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants to come to the United States as children. With the help of the Obama administration, these people were able to receive a better education or simply just a better life. However, the Trump administration wants to end a program that has helped thousands of people escape war-torn countries in order to live the American dream.
“To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here,” Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions said when he announced the end of the DACA program. “It’s just that simple.”
Upon its inception in 2012, immigrants — also known as dreamers — were able to come to the U.S. as minors without fear of deportation, according to ABC News. They were allowed to stay in the country for a period of two years and were eligible to receive a work permit. After the two years were up, dreamers could reapply and be granted an additional two years of asylum. However, the Trump administration decided to rescind the program and will phase it out in the next six months, putting the futures of thousands of dreamers in limbo.
Many of these immigrants are fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and Libya, where there is virtually no education system because years of conflict destroyed most of the infrastructure. Statistics published by the International Rescue Committee revealed nearly 1.75 million Syrian children and teenagers are not in school with most of them six years behind in their reading and math skills. Before the Syrian war began seven years ago, there were more than 22,000 schools operating in the country, according to the Los Angeles Times. Today, nearly 7,400 schools closed and the schools that are still open have poor sanitation, water and hygiene. Not to mention with Islamic State militants fighting against government-led forces and a U.S.-backed coalition, a bomb could detonate at a school at any moment, costing the lives of children.
Unfortunately in other parts of the world it isn’t much better. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, 45 percent of Nigeria’s population is comprised of children under the age of 15 which overwhelms an already struggling education system in the country. An estimated 40 percent of children from the ages 6 to 11, do not attend any primary school which is a total of 4.7 million. Although enrollment rates are increasing, there is a lack of teachers, infrastructure and resources to accommodate these children. In Nigeria, it is not uncommon to see a classroom with 100 children and only one teacher; neither is it uncommon to see teachers lecturing students under a tree outside a school building because there are no classrooms available.
When you have so many uneducated children, they end up falling victim to exploitation. There is currently an ongoing migrant crisis where millions of refugees are traveling across the Mediterranean in flimsy inflatable boats with the “help” of human traffickers, in hopes of reaching Europe so they can have a better life. According to the UN Refugee agency, 49 percent of these refugees have no formal education. Women and children often fall victim to human smugglers and find themselves ensnared in sex trafficking rings because smugglers tell them they will be able to make money without the need of special skills. Many of them are abused and treated as sex slaves, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The Guardian reported at least 10,000 child refugees were reported missing after reaching Europe with 5,000 disappearing in Italy alone.
In short, these people need our help and as a country that is thriving in comparison to other countries, it is our moral duty to help these people. They do not have access to the same resources and education that we do here in the U.S. In countries such as Yemen and Somalia where there are ongoing civil wars, many civilians fear for their lives and the lives of their children. Therefore, immigrants want to be able to at least send their children here where they will be given better opportunities.
The concern for the U.S. — and many other countries — is allowing more refugees to enter the country will lead to a rise in terrorist acts. When Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27 banning people from several Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan — from entering the country, it was because he wanted to prevent terrorists from entering our country, thus, keeping our country safe. Sessions even cited a statistic saying there are currently more than 300 refugees who are subject to counterterrorism investigations in the U.S.
“We also know that people seeking to support or commit terrorist attacks here will try to enter through our refugee program,” Sessions said on March 6. “In fact, today more than 300 people who came here as refugees are under FBI investigation for potential terrorism-related activities.”
The United Kingdom recently suffered a wave of terror attacks including the Manchester bombing and the Parsons Green Subway station bombing and the majority of the assailants were from the Middle East. In addition, Spain suffered from terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils when a van attacked pedestrians in Barcelona and a knife attack in Cambrils, the LA Times reported. Additional acts of terror occurred in Germany and France leaving many causalities in its wake. With these heinous acts of terror, it is understandable why many would fear foreign nationals entering the country.
According to a 2016 report by the libertarian Cato Institute called “Terrorism and Immigration,” 154 foreign nationals, including 20 refugees, were convicted of carrying out or attempting to carry out a terrorist attack in the U.S. from 1975 to 2015. Considering the thousands of people trying to enter the U.S., that is a relatively small figure especially in a 40-year time frame. The Cato report also said three refugees were responsible for terrorism-related deaths which all occurred in the 1970’s. In addition, zero refugees from countries included in the president’s initial travel ban killed people in a terrorist act on American soil and only 17 of them were convicted of attempting or participating in a terrorist act in the past 40 years.
When Ellis Island opened in 1924 and closed in 1954, millions of immigrants migrated to the U.S. in hopes of living the American dream. Nearly 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one ancestor from the island. In short, immigrants built this country. Therefore, instead of shunning dreamers and assuming all refugees are terrorists, we should be giving them the opportunity for a better life. The idea that what happens in the rest of the world doesn’t affect U.S. soil, is a falsehood and the only way we can “make America great again” is by giving people the opportunity to live the American dream.