DACA student: Deporting me and 800,000 Dreamers is a man-made disaster that will be terrible for US

Hurricane Harvey forced thousands of people from their homes in Texas and Louisiana – and now President Trump is threatening to force me and 800,000 other undocumented immigrants brought to America as children out of our homes throughout the United States.

My heart goes out to those made homeless by Harvey. That tragedy, unfortunately, was unavoidable. But President’s Trump’s decision announced Tuesday to end a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in six months is a man-made disaster. 

In making the announcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the delay in ending DACA will give Congress time to pass legislation, if it chooses, to provide the protection DACA now gives to me and the other immigrants known as Dreamers. If enacted, such legislation would enable us to stay in the U.S., where we have lived since childhood.

But with Congress gridlocked on so many issues, no one can say for sure if efforts to reform America’s immigration laws will succeed in six months, after years of failure. So those of us protected by DACA have no idea if we will be able to stay here or if we will be deported to countries where we have few if any memories.

This is torture for all 800,000 of us – a giant question mark hanging over our heads.

Almost all of us have jobs or are in school. We have friends, relatives, partners and many ties to our communities. And we love America. We desperately want to stay.

But it’s not just we Dreamers who would be hurt by the end of DACA. America would suffer.

The Center for American Progress estimates that ending DACA would remove about 685,000 workers from the U.S. economy over the next 10 years – creating hardships for employers who would have to replace them.

And the center estimates ending DACA would reduce the U.S. gross domestic product – the total value of all goods produced and services provided – by about $460 billion over a decade.

Businesses would lose 800,000 customers. Government at all levels would lose billions of dollars in tax revenue. Colleges and universities would lose tuition and fees from students. The armed forces would lose brave immigrants willing risk their lives to defend America.

So why are we Dreamers being threatened with deportation? The anti-immigrant hysteria that motivates those who want to send us packing makes no sense.

I ask everyone born in the U.S. to look at us as you looked at your parents, grandparents or earlier ancestors who came to this land of immigrants, making your lives possible. Do you think the Native Americans, who were here first, should have deported members of your families?

I have been a beneficiary of DACA since 2012. It changed my life, as it changed the lives of other Dreamers. Before DACA, I felt like a criminal on the run. I was terrified of being deported. I thought it would be impossible to ever go to college due to my undocumented status.

Yet I feel as American as anyone born here. My parents took me from Cali, Colombia to Miami in 2002, when I was 4-years-old. We fled after rebel forces of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) killed my grandparents. My parents feared we’d be in danger if we stayed.

Like other Dreamers, I didn’t ask to come here. Contrary to the dire warnings President Trump has voiced about undocumented immigrants, I was not a rapist, drug dealer or any other sort of criminal at age 4. Nor have I become one.

My parents started a business and created jobs for Americans. They worked every day of the week and paid their taxes. They taught me an unwavering sense of respect and gratitude for everything that living in the United States made possible.

In school I dedicated myself entirely to my studies and was a straight-A student, scoring at the highest levels on state and national academic tests.

I am currently a sophomore at Columbia University in New York City and if I am allowed to stay in the United States I hope to go to law school.

I could never afford an Ivy League education on my own. But my education is funded and supported by scholarships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Alexander Hamilton Scholars, Golden Door Scholars and Questbridge.

I speak six languages. I held internships with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. I became an accomplished violinist and gave free violin lessons to impoverished Miami youth.

I visited the White House and met first lady Michelle Obama when I was appointed to the student advisory board for her Better Make Room initiative, which encourages college attendance. I was one of 22 students worldwide to win the Future Global Leaders Fellowship.

For the rest of my life, I will be grateful to all the organizations that have supported me and given me new opportunities on the basis of my abilities and hard work, not my birthplace. And I will be grateful to President Obama for signing the DACA executive order.

President Trump is the grandson of German immigrants, son of a Scottish mother, husband of an immigrant and former husband of another. I’m sure he’s glad members of his family were allowed to stay in America. We 800,000 Dreamers ask that we be allowed to do the same.

Santiago Tobar Potes is a DACA recipient and student at Columbia University.