Bumba Bat is a recent Rutgers graduate who lives in Ewing Township. His family brought him to the United States from Mongolia in 2003, when he was just 9, and then they overstayed their visa making him one of a group now known as DREAMers, undocumented citizens who were brought to the U.S. as children and know no other home.
There are an estimated 200,000 DREAMers in the country with approximately 22,000 of them in New Jersey and until 2012, when President Obama introduced a program called DACA, they faced limited prospects and significant uncertainty. DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals offered DREAMers a chance to avoid deportation and be eligible for a work permit. Almost 800,000 people are protected by DACA according to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services. The program requires DREAMEers to fill out a lengthy application and pay $465 every two years to maintain their status.
Bat told The VOICE, “Life before DACA was just a big mystery, it was difficult to tell what was going to happen after I graduated high school. It made things like driving, and the chance of going to college very difficult. With DACA, it gave me a sense of security and hope that I could accomplish things just like every other kid in the school.”
But on September 5, President Trump announced that he plans to “rescind” DACA, as part of one of his many promises to close borders, reduce immigration, and increase deportations. Now the president has given Congress until March to come up with something else in place of it, if they decide to.
The VOICE asked Bat how he felt after the announcement, he says he was: “Not surprised, but a bit confused because [President Trump] said before that he was going to tend to this matter with ‘heart.’”
With his work permit expiring this October, Bat is not eligible to apply for an extension. What does this mean for his future? Bat is unsure, but says he wants to talk to a lawyer to review his options. He says those may include, “Going to grad school if it allows me to stay here, then that might be the route I take.”
Aside from DREAMers like Bat who already had their work permit, there are those soon-to-be DREAMers who now see their options disappearing. Bat’s cousin, A.G., who asked to be anonymous out of fear for his safety, is in his senior year at Lawrence High School. He passed his Driver’s Ed class during his sophomore year and says he was excited to apply for DACA, and be able to drive and work like any other teen. He filled out the complex DACA application and paid the $465 fee in 2016, however he still has not received an approval.
A.G. came to the United States with his father, mother and older sister in 2004, when he was 4 years old. He says he feels that “it is not fair” that President Trump plans to rescind DACA and says he hopes that “Congress will pull a miracle and really think about us kids, coming here without having a say in the process.” Indeed, there have been recent signals by congressional Democrats that they may have struck a deal with the President to protect DREAMers from deportation, but it is not clear that this would mean extending any version of DACA.
A.G.’s mother, Munkhjargal says she is terrified for the future for her children. When she first came here with her husband, A.G, and their daughter, she says they did not plan to overstay their B2 visitor visa but at the last minute they decided to take the risk and stay in order to give their children the best possible education. “We could have gone the right way about it and got the green card to come live here legally but it was all very last minute decisions that now brought us here” she added.
When asked if he ever blames his parents for his situation, A.G says “No, I understand that my parents were just thinking of me and my sister, and I am forever grateful for them. Being undocumented does not define them, or me.”
What does the future hold for him and his family? His mother said “we don’t know what to do, what to think, where to go, and are just very upset. I brought my son when he was 4 years old, he grew up here, he learned the language, he is accustomed to the culture…Do I take him back to a country he barely remembers and a language he barely speaks?”
Here at Mercer there are posters around the campus offering counseling services for DACA students. The counselors are Fred Weiner and Martha Gunning who told The VOICE they have open hours in their offices in SC 226 for students looking for emotional help.
Wiener told The VOICE, “I think some of them, if not all, might be afraid of being singled out, and here at Mercer we welcome everyone and want them to succeed. That’s why we are here for the students.”
Not only counselors but also professors are reaching out to help DACA students.
Professor Linda Bolis, A Libyan-American professor who teaches international sections of ENG 101 and 102 says, “My opinion is that DACA recipients are not like other undocumented immigrants. They were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children and have grown up here. Compassion and common sense tell me that these young people are part of American society, having known no other reality, and so the U.S. government should acknowledge this reality and give them a pathway to citizenship.”
Although Bolis says she does not ask her students if they are DACA recipients, she assumes that some of her students are under this program.
Bolis says, “President Trump has greatly added to the burden of DACA students who are now very unsure about their future in this country. This is simply cruel. There was no need to rescind this policy. Adding to the anxiety, this President has come out with mixed messages about his supposed ‘love’ of DACA recipients. Once again, unnecessary, irresponsible, and cruel.”
Bumba Bat says, “I am no different than 90 percent of the kids that I went to school with. I think if you are a good citizen and hope to do something well for the economy, the country, your family, and for yourself, you should be given a fair chance at being a DREAMer.”
Since the President’s announcement, many groups have lead large scale rallies to protest his decision, including highly visible ones outside of Trump Tower in New York City.
Bat says, “I am happy to see so many Americans fighting for DACA kids like me, with multiple protests and several different states now suing him for his decision.”