Column: Don’t stop fighting for Dreamers
In case you couldn’t tell by our last names, we’re both from families of immigrants. We were brought up to understand what a privilege it is to live in this country. Our parents, grandparents or great grandparents taught us that being “American” means working hard, giving back, and being grateful to live in a nation where you’re judged by your actions and achievements, not your surname.
Today we’re concerned that legacy is shifting. We’re concerned that, despite all the contributions immigrants have made to the United States, being foreign-born in America is becoming harder and harder.
Based on the current stalemate in Congress over what to do about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, that notion seems to be true. According to most polls, at least eight in 10 Americans support a Congress passing a legislative solution protecting Dreamers from deportation. Despite that remarkable level of consensus, lawmakers have not yet agreed on a solution to satisfy President Trump’s request to enact a long-term legislative replacement for DACA.
A handful of officials in Washington have thwarted progress by insisting that any DACA bill be combined with a reduction in the number of people legally allowed into the United States. This small band of immigration opponents said no when a large bipartisan group of their colleagues offered increased funding for border agents and interior enforcement. They said no to new spending for technology that would help intercept people crossing borders illegally. They even said no to an offer of $25 billion to build the president’s “big beautiful” wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
No offer has been enough, and now the only thing keeping DACA in place — and 800,000 young men and women from being deported — are the orders of two judges, one in California and one in New York.
We’re proud of the lawmakers who are standing up for America’s immigrant heritage. These lawmakers remember that immigrants have built many of this country’s greatest companies. They remember that six of the Fortune 500 companies based in Michigan had at least one founder who either was an immigrant or was the child of an immigrant.
We are grateful that these lawmakers honor our contributions. The great grandson of immigrants, Eric now works at the University of Michigan College of Engineering’s Center on Entrepreneurship where he helps connect U of M students with employers. Sophia, a DACA recipient, came to the United States when she was just four years old. She quickly learned English, became an accelerated honors student throughout elementary school and high school, and achieved a bachelor of science degree in 2017. At commencement, Sophia was honored to receive an award that is given to one undergraduate student who best exemplifies the mission of the university.
Eric is part of the long list of U.S. scientists and engineers from immigrant families. Albert Einstein, who became a citizen in 1940, was born in Germany. Amar Bose (the guy who created those speakers that are in a lot Michigan homes) came from India. Sergey Brin — Google him — was an immigrant, and so was James Kraft, the inventor of “American” cheese.
The National Science Foundation has logged the contributions of immigrant scientists and engineers. According to NSF, by 2013 18 percent of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) researchers and engineers were immigrants. NSF also has found about half of mid-career scientists and engineers in postdoctoral research positions who obtained their doctorates in the United States were not born in this country. The National Foundation for American Policy has found children of immigrants are top science students in U.S. high schools.
Sophia, following her graduation, has spent her time studying for the LSAT and applying to law school, in hopes of one day being able to fight for the rights of all Americans. Unfortunately, despite the fact that she has been accepted to law school and received a full academic scholarship, she will continue her studies amidst the uncertainty that plagues Dreamers nationwide. Sophia is one of the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who have been educated and raised in this country, but without a legislative solution, may soon be forced to take their knowledge and skills to a country they’ve never known.
The vast majority of Americans, and the vast majority of lawmakers in Washington, recognize these contributions. Though they’ve offered so much already, we hope they won’t stop fighting for DACA recipients and for every immigrant family.
Eric Bacyinski is director of M Engage at the University of Michigan Center of Entrepreneurship. Sophia Sendler is a DACA recipient who recently graduated from the university.