by Félix Pérez; image by Andreas Metz
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Five years ago today, President Obama, responding to a growing need to act in the face of congressional gridlock, signed an executive order allowing qualified immigrant students and youths to study and work without fear of deportation.
Today, in cities as far flung as Washington, DC, Denver, Austin, TX, Orlando, FL, Albuquerque, NM, Salem, OR, Boise, ID, Omaha, NE, Portland, ME, and Oklahoma City, to name a few, those immigrant students, known as DREAMers, and young people and their allies are protesting to protect the program created by Obama’s executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The immediate threat: 10 state attorneys threatened in late June to file a lawsuit unless the Trump administration starts phasing out the program by September 5.
DACA specifically grants people who came to the United States as children, pass a criminal background check, and meet educational and other criteria permission to live and work in the country on a two-year, renewable basis. To date, 800,000 young people have been granted DACA status.
Gema Hernández is a DREAMer. A 2017 graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Hernández was granted DACA status in 2013. She and the other DACA recipients “are not safe” because of the Trump administration’s “outright contempt” for the immigrant community, wrote Hernández. “Repeal of DACA is not a distant threat for us, but a very real possibility with measurable consequences,” she said.
Hernández credits DACA with opening the door of opportunity for her and others:
Because of DACA I have been able to travel abroad for educational purposes, work a full-time job, and become the first in my family to graduate from a university, without fear of wage-theft or deportation. We are teachers, scientists, small businesses owners, and students – building our lives, our families, and our communities. We are a part of the foundation of this country.
These are the stories of YOUR community. ✊❤️SHARE — #DefendDACA & TPS: https://unitedwedre.am/2ut5s3g
Posted by United We Dream on Monday, July 24, 2017
Utah elementary school teacher Lily Eskelsen García, in an earlier statement supporting a long-term legislative solution for DACA, said DREAMers “are our students, our friends, our peers, and they have lived in this country since they were children. They have built their lives here. They are Americans in every way except for their immigration status. . . [T]hey become a vital part of our economic engine, contributing to our society as engineers, nurses, small business owners, and, yes, educators. Regrettably the threats of deportation, as well as actual deportations of DREAMers, are sending shockwaves throughout our schools and communities, and they are keeping DREAMers from realizing their full potential or realizing their talents in service to the schools, communities and nation they call home.”
Eskelsen García added, “The time is now to protect DACA and to provide the certainty our DREAMers and their families deserve.”