DACA, Kingsbury, Cohen – and a lesson in the value of listening

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Brian Clay
Brian Clay

by Brian Clay, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

The library at Kingsbury High School was packed, filled with students from Quentin Clay’s American History class, prepared to ask detailed questions on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

I’d always thought most of the students at Kingsbury were Hispanics or Latinos. But I quickly learned that Kingsbury is also filled with students from Syria, Somalia, France, Latin America and Cuba. Kingsbury is possibly the most diverse public school in the Shelby County Schools system.

My brother Quentin, a 1992 graduate of Kingsbury, has discussed in his class the importance of DACA and its impact on his students and other DACA recipients, known as Dreamers. Junior history student Juliana wrote an impassioned letter to U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen about DACA, and his plan on how Democrats will thwart efforts of the Trump administration to end the program, introduced in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama.

In the lounge area of the library, Clay explained to me how Juliana took it upon herself to write her plea to Cohen and how her family was terrified about the prospect of being deported.

“Each day we go to the grocery store, each day that the phone rings at home, each day I come to school, I worry that there will be law enforcement prepared to take us in custody and take us away,” Juliana said. “It’s a horrifying feeling each day.”

Juliana hopes to become a doctor when she finishes school. “I first would like to enlist in the United States Army and become an army medic,” she said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to serve my country.”

Cohen was greeted by the Kingsbury students’ “cool snaps,” causing the Congressman to laugh loudly.

Rep. Steve Cohen

He quickly went into a dialogue on the inner workings of Washington, D.C. He was very clear and open about the lack of concern that resonates from the Trump White House. But Cohen was confident that Democrats will continue to fight Republicans who he believes would rather deport people looking to America for opportunity versus finding solutions for persons who want to be a part of the American Dream.

Juliana asked Cohen about the recent shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 people dead. Expelled student Nicolas Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“In all my years in public service, I never have been a part of a group of people (Republicans), that are so focused on doing nothing, regarding these tragedies,” Cohen replied. “No child should be afraid to go to school.”

No student should be focused on deportation or gun violence in school. Schools are institutions of learning, safety and hope. However when Congressmen like Cohen have to take time from fighting for the people of the 9th Congressional District to reassure children and families that they will not be deported or that they will be safe at school, then it’s safe to say that there must be a re-evaluation of the so-called coming out of Washington.