It was a pleasant shock for many across the country this past month when the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s move to rescind DACA. The surprise came when Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberals on the Court to at least temporarily preserve the program. DACA is the program created by President Barack Obama that allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a temporary work permit and protection from deportation.
While this is certainly great news, there is still much work to be done. There is still a need for an actual pathway to citizenship for Dreamers — the informal name for DACA recipients — as well as members of their families who remain undocumented. The decision also does not undo the fact that in some states like South Carolina, Dreamers are still denied in-state tuition, state scholarships and even licensure in areas such as social work, cosmetology, teaching and nursing. South Carolina is among the most restrictive states in the nation in this area. This fits into the greater pattern of discrimination such as being one of three states that continues to completely ban undocumented students from studying at state colleges and universities.
There is state legislation (H.3404) to remove these barriers for Dreamers led by the efforts of Republican House Rep. Neal Collins of Pickens County. Though Collins comes from a more conservative political perspective, real-life conversations with Dreamers changed his heart and mind. There was some substantial statewide movement to pass this legislation, but that was delayed both due to the reticence of some to push for the issue while it was being debated at the Supreme Court and the pandemic. I believe now is the time that we make a strong push for this change at the state level. It is unjust to the many individuals who work so hard and are denied the basic economic opportunities in our state. It is also self-defeating, as we are denying people from entering needed fields like nursing and teaching, particularly when many are bilingual.
We are making some needed changes due to the renewed conversation on racism and structural injustice in our nation. The very fact that Charleston moved the statue of John C. Calhoun speaks volumes. Within this environment where elected officials are more receptive to re-examining structural injustices and discrimination, we must push for this change in South Carolina.
I encourage you to reach out to your local legislators and let them know that it is time for South Carolina to act and provide in-state tuition, state scholarships and licensure to all those who are covered by the DACA program. To fail to do so is to act unjustly to a group of individuals who have given so much back to our state. Hopefully this will be the first step in removing educational restrictions for all immigrant students, regardless of their immigration status, as many states have already done.
Right now, we are grappling with our past in this state. We have a problematic history that we need to confront; this struggle is beyond important. In the midst of that, we must also discuss the shortcomings on civil rights that are occurring right now, including those injustices that many in the state are unaware of — like the restrictions for Dreamers. If we want to be a vibrant and inclusive state, we have to change archaic and discriminatory policies that make our state weaker and leave many young people with limited options for their careers.
Will McCorkle is a South Carolina educator and immigration advocate.