Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Statement on DACA

Dear fellow astronomers,

   Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on behalf of the POTUS, announced this administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. This program was created in 2012 by the Obama Administration to provide minimal protections for undocumented folks who arrived to this country as children. These protections include the halting of deportation, the ability to acquire a work permit, and eligibility to travel abroad. Currently, nearly 800,000 people are protected by DACA - and an estimated additional one million would also be eligible for the program if the program were to continue [1]. Today’s news are infuriating and heartbreaking, especially for those without documents or with undocumented friends and family members - many of whom are your colleagues or students in your classroom.

    Let us be clear. The rescinding of DACA is the reflection of a much bigger problem. It is amongst the many racist policies that, over the last few centuries, have primarily targeted a large fraction of the descendants of the first inhabitants of this continent (also known as ‘Indigenous-Latinx’), as well as people who were forced out of their lands as a result of colonialism and imperialism. In other words, the primary targets are Black and Brown folks from what some call the ‘Third World’, both from this continent and from other parts of the globe. Such maintenance and control of the flow of migrant workers - i.e., of the very people who, with their labor, drive the economies of the wealthiest nations on the planet - has long been an integral part of a larger system of power that is fueled by racism. As a result, millions of human beings have been denied their rights, and continue to live in fear of deportation and in a state of perpetual exclusion. Moreover, in order to maintain this economic order, it is important for those in power to enforce social and legal constructs like borders, citizenship, and immigration status. And while DACA itself was problematic - because it perpetuated the criminalization of most undocumented migrants, the glorification of having a ‘legal status’, and the attachment of human worth to being economically viable - in practice it provided hundreds of thousands of young people with means to employment, education and the ability to visit their loved ones. Overnight, all of these young people are again at risk for deportation and separation from their families. Those affected cannot plan their own future in the long term, nor cement their roots in their communities because their status is so uncertain, and because, once again, they are being forced to live in fear.

Many astronomers are educators, and thus we have interacted with DACA-protected students and families. Please extend your support to your students and colleagues who might be affected by this recent change in immigration policy. Concrete steps include:

(1) Reach out to your state representatives to support the Dream Act [2], which would offer a concrete path to citizenship for many immigrants. 

(2) Educate yourself and find ways to support compassionate, meaningful immigration reform [3,4]. This includes books, electronic media, and discussion with groups in your community.

(3) Organize meetings in your departments and institutions and brainstorm on ways to best support your students.

(4) Devote class time to discuss this situation. Empower your students, both those who might be directly affected by this decision and others. Be sure to adhere to the Inclusive Astronomy guidelines when you do this, as these difficult conversations can be extremely overwhelming for those affected. 

We, the members of the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy, reaffirm our unconditional solidarity and support for every astronomer, especially astronomy students of color, affected by the decision to end DACA. You belong in this country, you belong in astronomy, and you can always count on us. 

Immigrant rights are human rights! No human is illegal!

September 5th, 2017

Prof. Jorge Moreno
Dr. Lia Corrales
Dr. Keith Hawkins
Prof. Kathryne Daniel
Prof. Jillian Bellovary
Prof. Adam Burgasser
Dr. Nicole Cabrera Salazar
Prof. Aparna Venkatesan
Charee Peters
Prof. John Asher Johnson
Prof. Kim Coble

Disclaimer: The above signatories are private citizens exercising their constitutional right to express their personal views. This is not an official statement by the American Astronomical Society nor the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy and should not be construed as such.

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