History in the Making - Define American

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History in the Making

History in the Making

Today is the day. This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of U.S. v. Texas. The decision over expanded DACA (DACA+) and DAPA will affect millions of lives and could mean a huge boost to our economy. The actions are currently “frozen” in the midst of a court battle brought by 26 states, led by Texas. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the case today, with a decision expected sometime in June.

A Sign of the Times

Among the thousands of people gathered at the steps of the Supreme Court right now, many will be holding the signs pictured above, which read “I Am An American” in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Chinese. The signs are powerful symbols of American citizenship being defined by more than just pieces of paper. They also symbolize the constant struggle of Americans throughout history to seek fairness through legal change.

These signs were inspired by the protest call of “I Am A Man.” They are an homage to the signs used in the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 when 1,300 black sanitation workers in Tennessee walked off the job in protest of dangerous working conditions, discrimination, ill treatment and the deaths of workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker. This was primarily a labor dispute, but the protests also focused on racial issues. “I Am A Man” became their rallying cry, arguing that they deserved to be treated as human beings, something not afforded to them by their labor conditions.

Undocumented immigrants want to be seen for what they have contributed to American society, culture and economy as well. They work hard. They raise families. They pay taxes. They want to be incorporated into a country whose immigration system has been painfully slow to evolve.

Further back in time, this call of “I am an American,” was used when a store owner made the public declaration in Oakland, California after Pearl Harbor in 1941. The store was closed in 1942, when the owner, Tatsuro Masuda, was relocated to an internment camp. The store was started by his father, Torasaburo, who arrived in 1894 and married in California. His children were all born in California and worked in the store.

This statement is made by immigrants in times of fear and prejudice. They want to be seen as the neighbors they have been in years past, not invaders. It is a declaration used today to show how undocumented immigrants are Americans in spirit, just not on paper.

What’s at Stake

These actions are the only option available for immigrants who were brought here as children and for American children whose parents are at risk of deportation. DACA+ would lift the age restriction on childhood arrivals. This would mean undocumented immigrants like our founder, Jose Antonio Vargas, who were brought to the U.S. as children will be eligible for limited rights. DAPA would allow limited rights to the parents of U.S. citizen children. While many people have heard about these actions, there’s still a lot of misinformation out there. Here are some key points to remember about the DACA+/DAPA executive actions:

  • They are not a pathway to citizenship. Rather, they grant temporary rights such as work authorization and deportation relief to immigrants who are already in this country.
  • There is no line for people to stand in. Without marrying a U.S. citizen, there is essentially no way to normalize your status in the U.S.
  • This case is no silver bullet solution for our antiquated immigration system. But, it’s the only option on the table, and one that’s worth fighting for as it allows many undocumented immigrants to increase their economic contributions and keeps families together.
  • These actions would be a huge boost to the economy. By unfreezing DACA+/DAPA, state and local tax revenue would increase by an estimated $805 million each year.

How to Help

Even if you can’t be at the Supreme Court today to share in the excitement, you can show your support for DACA+/DAPA and the five million families whose futures depend on a favorable decision by changing your profile picture on social media using our simple tool. The tool will switch your Twitter photo automatically, but requires manual designation as your profile picture on Facebook.

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