October 3, 2017

GUEST ROOM | A Defense of DACA

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A few weeks ago, the Trump administration declared its intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, giving Congress six months to act on it. As someone who arrived in the United States as a seventh grader, I cannot and will not remain silent.

This decision jeopardizes the lives of nearly 800,000 who came to this country. Their families seek new careers, new beginnings and for some, a safe haven. Many have arrived in the United States in hopes of a better education. These people — relentlessly pursuing a better life — view America as a land of opportunity because it has given them many options that might not have been available in their countries. By ending DACA, we are not only denying these “dreamers” a chance to lead normal lives, but also redefining our values as a nation for the worse.

Like many of my classmates at Harvard, where I am a graduate student, and Cornell, I was not born in this country. I spent the first 12 years of my life in India. Fortunately, I was able to attend a good school; however, many children my age were required to work 10 to 12 hours a day to help their families make ends meet. This is why I have always valued and prioritized my education. In 2007, my father, at age 40, made a bold decision to leave family and friends in India behind and move to this country. Since then, the opportunities that this country has given me have been invaluable. I have had the freedom to pursue my interest in science and medicine not only through a world-class education, but also through research and access to programs, which simply would not have been possible in most parts of India.

The repercussions of this devastating decision will reverberate for years to come for all of us. Many of the people who come to this country are students. Some even pursuing careers in science or medicine. Like many other aspiring scientists and physicians, they are willing to make many sacrifices for the betterment of human health in their communities and the world. Denying them the access to an honest living through hard work is harsh and unjust. It also deprives this country — and the world — of valuable talent and human potential.

I believe that it is possible to arrive at a pragmatic and humane legislative solution that will protect the Dreamers. Many of these people identity as Americans, and some have never known a country besides ours. This matter needs to be reassessed with the realization that the Dreamers do not pose a threat to our national security; indeed, many of them are a gift to our country. They are valuable members of our society, who deserve every right that we claim as Americans.

I am gravely concerned and unsatisfied by this decision. More importantly, I fear the trajectory this administration is taking. Even as a citizen, I fear that my identity as an American-Indian could one day raise questions of deportation.

I want to encourage more people to speak up. And I want those affected by the potential DACA repeal to know that we respect and empathize with the battle they are engaged in. In this moment, the least we can offer the Dreamers is our unwavering support and a genuine sense of unity.

It seems possible and clear that this issue should receive bipartisan support. Failure to arrive at a common-sense solution is a threat to our nation and to our collective humanity.


Sangrag Ganguli ’17 is a graduate of Cornell University. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.