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DACA beyond the numbers

Nearly a week ago, President Vincent Price proactively penned a letter to President Trump arguing against repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. He cited the incalculable benefits that noncitizens and DACA recipients bring to campus as well as stressing a commitment to protecting all Duke students. However, despite opposition from Price, community leaders and politicians, the Trump administration moved ahead this week and announced the timeline for ending the program. This decision has incited panic and fear for the nearly 800,000 people protected by the Obama-era measures, including members of the Duke community, who are are once again finding themselves dehumanized and being reduced down to numbers and data points in public discourse. While Price’s words stood in stark contrast to the tepid responses of President Brodhead’s tenure, it is nonetheless concerning that his letter continues the trend of treating undocumented immigrants as only worth the sum of their academic achievements or the labor they produce.

Ever since the announcement from the White House, DACA beneficiaries that have accomplished incredible things in their lifetimes have been praised and highlighted. While the achievements of the medical students, innovators in technology and teachers who have been affected by this program should be shared and celebrated, it is erroneous and cruel to further the narrative that those without full citizenship should only be treated with basic humanity if they’re contributing significantly to the economy. Immigrants at Duke and around the country deserve compassion and protection because they’re humans, not because of how many degrees they hold or how many hours they’ve committed to research. Their belongingness here should be wholly independent of their economic contributions to our country, just as it is for any other American. 

This most recent devastating announcement is a part of a larger agenda of xenophobia and white nationalism that the administration is committed to pushing. Trump’s attack on DACA recipients is racism thinly veiled in economic language and lends credence to idea that these immigrants are stealing some great American birthright by simply existing within the borders of the United States. This is a dangerous illusion predicated on misdirected anger. In line with President Trump’s previous actions, statements and tweets, it is clear that this action is simply another step towards the ultimate goal of the administration and its supporters: a white ethnostate.

Clearly, President Price’s letter is an improvement for Duke’s leadership style and he deserves credit for speaking out against threats on the horizon instead of merely reactively trying to respond to them after they materialize. It is a signal of a newer administrative style at Duke and will hopefully carry on through his tenure. Going forward, it’s important to harness that same initiative to protect our communities on and off of campus. Given the dire straits that have characterized this administration, it is crucial to heed the calls to action from those whose lives are hanging in the balance, regardless of their jobs, education or salaries. The only morally permissible stance to take in light of this news is to defend and support all immigrants that are faced with violence and displacement from a white supremacist government that cares not for how long they have lived on American soil and how little they know of a country they could be deported to. 


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