Focus on gun control leaves Dreamers in the dark

Focus on gun control leaves Dreamers in the dark

Jamie Stewart-Aday

The tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) was not the first shooting in recent memory. It was not the first school shooting either. But it was the only one of these tragedies that elicited the type of response we have seen in past months. This response has and will continue to produce positive results in the form of gun reform, and that is great. But by redirecting our public discourse to this issue and this issue alone, we left 800,000 Dreamers in the dark.

On September 3, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which had granted protection to thousands of people who had been brought to the U.S. illegally as children. In doing so, the administration put these 800,000 lives in the hands of Congress.

What followed was months of heated debate and attempts on both sides of the aisle to allow DACA recipients to remain in the country in some form or another. While not producing a permanent solution, this period got us closer to the solution we needed. But such a solution was only going to be reached if it continued to get this level of attention.

The shooting at MSD changed all of this. Whereas before the shooting, DACA was on every policymaker’s mind, after it only got maybe a tweet per week. This lack of focus culminated in a tweetstorm by President Trump in which he proclaimed “NO MORE DACA DEAL.” By focusing so much on only one issue, we allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to face the danger of deportation.

Because Congress was unable to strike a deal protecting Dreamers, those youth and their allies were forced to turn to the courts. These courts have ruled numerous times in their favor, including an April 24 decision by Judge John D. Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia that forced the Department of Homeland Security to keep the program and accept new applicants. However, if the Department is able to better explain their reasoning for terminating the program within 90 days, the decision can be reversed.

While an important step, this most recent decision shows that the lasting protection Dreamers deserve can only come from Congress. And Congress will only reach an agreement if they are forced to talk about it. If we continue to focus on one topic at a time, these Dreamers will fail to receive the permanent safety that they deserve.

This is not to say that we need to stop talking about gun control. But what we have seen in recent months is the inability of policymakers and the American public to devote sufficient amounts of attention to more than one issue at a time.

And this is far from the first time that we have seen the problems resulting from this mindset. In the middle of the 19th century, the women’s suffrage movement gained popularity across the country. While they were pursuing the noble goal of equality between the sexes, pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton fell victim to a one-issue mindset.

For Stanton, by directing her focus to suffrage and suffrage alone, she hurt the abolitionist movement which was happening at the same time. When she said things like, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman,” Stanton exhibited the mindset that hurt slaves then and is hurting Dreamers now.

At any time, but especially during this administration, there are a lot of problems that need fixing. There are a lot of groups who are being marginalized. People are losing their loved ones, and lives are being destroyed for a wide variety of reasons.

Especially on issues with some bipartisan support, such as DACA, it is possible to work on many of these problems at once. It just requires us to work harder. Since the election in 2016, a lot has been done that underscores the importance of not becoming complacent. This is just one more example where that reigns true.

We cannot make progress on one issue and be satisfied. If we continue to only fight hard for one issue at a time, we will continue to leave groups like Dreamers behind. The people with the ability to fight have an obligation to fight for those who can’t. The people with the ability to make change have an obligation to make changes for those who can’t. By only focusing on one issue at a time, we are abandoning these obligations.