OPINION: It’s important you vote to protect those who can’t

by Gaby Jose, Contributor

The basic human rights of countless marginalized groups of people are at risk this Election Day. The 2020 Presidential Election is by far the most important election of the past several decades. Our votes are especially important for those who are unable to vote including undocumented individuals and legally established permanent residents of the United States who are not citizens.

President Trump is not afraid to speak out against and target undocumented individuals, especially Latinos, yet they do not have a voice. In September 2017, President Trump attempted to end President Obama’s executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This program grants lawful status to qualifying individuals who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 and protects over 800,000 individuals. 

It is to be noted that DACA is not a path to citizenship. It is solely a safeguard from deportation and allows qualifying individuals to obtain work permits, state driver’s licenses, and receive DACA-specific financial aid for higher education.

There is a common misconception that any undocumented individual qualifies for DACA; however, this is quite the opposite of the truth. To qualify for DACA, the applicant must have arrived in the United States before the age of 16, be younger than the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, and have never been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor relating to violence or drugs. If the individual is to be convicted of a felony or drug-related misdemeanor, their legal status will be rescinded and they may face deportation.

Qualifying individuals are often referred to as DREAMers, in reference to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act issued by President Obama in 2012 that did not pass in Congress. This act would have granted qualifying undocumented immigrants legal and permanent residency in the United States. Despite not passing Congress, the term DREAMers is still used to refer to these undocumented individuals.

Even being protected under DACA and having legal status in the United States, these individuals and other undocumented individuals are unable to vote. Our current President will keep attempting to repeal DACA and these DREAMers if reelected, while the individuals most impacted by this do not have a say in the matter. 

We must vote to decide their future and to fight for their protection. 

Protecting undocumented immigrants in the United States under DACA is imperative for the growth of our country. Our immigration system is outdated, but it is also important to recognize drastic change cannot and does not occur overnight. The implementation and safeguard of DACA play a crucial role in the positive progression of our country.

There has been much slander in the media against migrant and undocumented workers, like how they ‘steal our jobs’ and they ‘steal spots in our universities,’ but these hardworking individuals do the most to fuel progress in our country. The United States is built on the exploitation and bloodshed of other racial groups. 

Without undocumented and migrant workers, the aisles of grocery stores would be barren. Everyone who lives in the U.S. benefits from the jobs of these undocumented and migrant workers, yet many Americans are quick to find a way to dehumanize and turn a blind eye to unfair compensation and labor conditions. These farmworkers go to work and do their job, regardless of the weather conditions – rain, shine, through wildfires, and a pandemic.

Even though their jobs are so important to the well being of Americans, large corporations are unfairly compensating these individuals. For example, the infamous berry company, Driscoll’s was exposed for paying their workers $6 for an entire day’s work. 

Similarly, open discrimination of different ethnic groups and failures to denounce white supremacy, from the current administration poses a threat to the wellbeing of marginalized cultural groups. The LGBTQ+ community, transgender individuals, in particular, have been severely impacted and discriminated against by the Trump administration. A new Housing and Urban development rule now make it legal to discriminate against transgender individuals in a homeless shelter setting. This means a transgender woman can be legally turned away and sent to a male homeless shelter, putting her life at risk, and vice-versa. 

It is imperative to exercise your rights and vote in the 2020 Presidential election. The lives of undocumented people, the LGBTQ+ community, and countless other social groups are at risk depending on the outcome of the election.

Gaby Jose is a sophomore studying Comparative International Studies, English SSTC and Spanish. Follow her on Twitter @8oh5ive.

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