We Stand for DACA Students
September 7, 2017
The American Dream became true for me the day that I earned my college degree.
In the late 1970s, I was among the small population of Black students across the country who enrolled in, persisted through and graduated from college. Without the hard-won victories of the Civil Rights Movement, most students of color in prior generations never dreamt of such an accomplishment.
My father made sure to remind me that I had beaten the odds. Even after the Civil Rights era, because of financial, societal, and other obstacles, most students of color did not have the opportunity to continue education beyond high school. I was lucky to have the support of loving parents and a lot of luck on my side.
Everyone should have the opportunities and supports to achieve their educational and career goals, regardless of financial circumstances, zip code, or the color of their skin. Nearly a decade ago, I moved my career into the higher education space because I wanted to break down barriers that so many young people face, even still today.
We have come a long way from the injustices that generations before us faced, but still, there is still much work to be done. This week's decision to rescind the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) makes this clear.
Dreamers – all 800,000 – came to our country as children and know no other country. These are youth who grew up in our neighborhoods, went to American schools and 97 percent of them are either working or enrolled in school. To them, the DACA program offered hope and the opportunity to pursue their educational and career goals in the country that they love.
ECMC Foundation joins our partners in philanthropy and education in standing against the decision to end DACA. The DACA program represents America's promise of opportunity, economic mobility, inclusion and community. It also represents the values of ECMC Foundation – ones that we hope to advance through our investments in the field. By funding and leveraging the work of our grantee partners, we have made it our mission to improve educational opportunities for all students, many who have benefited from DACA.
Removing protections afforded by DACA hurts these young people and contradicts not just American values but the fundamental goal of philanthropy: advancing social good. In the coming months, ECMC Foundation urges Congress to develop a solution to protect Dreamers.
ECMC Foundation also remains optimistic in these troubling times. A famous quote from Theodore Parker reads: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." In some ways, my personal experience fuels my reluctance to believe we're headed for the worst outcome: sending Dreamers out of our country.
I see parts of my younger self in the Dreamers. While the challenges that I faced growing up in the 1960s and 70s were unique and different from the ones they face today, both my younger self and Dreamers understand what it feels like to hope for the American dream, for inclusion, opportunity and mobility.
Indeed, I faced many obstacles on my path towards achieving my own goals, but I have also witnessed this country holding onto its promise time and time again. However, this promise is only protected if we speak up and come together to defend what is right and just.
Peter J. Taylor