Dreamers and Fates Undecided

Photo by Makeda Viechweg, The City College Campus, Harlem, New York

By: Makeda Viechweg

“Last week an old guy, I don’t know if he was faculty or a student, came to us and said, ‘Hide! ICE is here on campus checking IDs,’ and I was so scared!” says Linda, a DACA recipient at The City College of New York.

Although Linda misheard the man and agents of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were nowhere near the Harlem Campus, this is the kind of anxiety young DACA recipients feel.   When President Trump rescinded DACA, he threatened their futures.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2012 and created The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents before they were sixteen. It gave them Social Security numbers, work permits, and legal status that they could renew every two years.  President Trump gave Congress a deadline of six months to come up with a replacement for DACA.

Linda, nineteen, prefers not to disclose her full name because of the risk to her and her family’s safety.

She is the only one in her family that received DACA approval and her parents worry that she may get deported. Linda’s father came to the United States from Ecuador and her mother from France. They met in Venezuela where she was born.  She was brought to the U.S. at the age of three and her other siblings were born in America. Now that DACA is rescinded, Linda may be separated from her family.

If deported, Linda faces the turmoil and poverty in Venezuela. “It’s really, really bad. Corrupt. Horrible long lines to get simple toiletries and groceries. With their Social Security numbers, people get assigned days of the week to pick up groceries if anything is available.”

Inflation and political policies caused the once-prosperous country to decline. According to The Guardian, Venezuela’s food crisis has caused three-quarters of their population to lose weight. Many are hospitalized and dying from malnutrition.

The Guardian reports that some young girls are forced to work in brothels at the age of twelve, because there is no other work and they need food to support their family.

The thought of going back to Venezuela infuriates Linda.

“I am angry about the whole situation. At first I was numb and I couldn’t believe what I saw on Facebook because not everything on there is true. My permit expires this December and in the process of renewing it, we visited a couple of lawyers and they assured us that they’re not going to take it out and then the news said that they’re going to take it out.”

Linda majors in nursing at the City College and works hard at keeping up with the demanding curriculum. Nursing requires dedication and enough time to study. She juggles her anxiety, her dreams about the future, and her school work. The termination of the DACA program doesn’t stop her from reaching her goal. “It has made me more motivated and determined to achieve the best I can in all my classes and it’s more important than ever to push myself in any way I can.”

On the City College campus Linda joined the Dream Team, a club that provides a safe space for DACA students. She says it helps to have people around you who know what you’re going through. “It gives you moral support because I grew up being the only person around my age that was undocumented. I was always alone and told to keep quiet and lie when asked questions from anyone. But at the Dream Team I have people to talk to.”

As of today there is not a final decision on DACA. Roughly 800,000 Dreamers are left hanging in the wind and the country needs answers. California has the largest number of Dreamers. According to Statista, there are 223,000 undocumented youths living in California. Lawmakers there passed a sanctuary bill on September 16th. It declares California as a sanctuary state against deportation. It protects immigrants from being questioned by ICE, even those with felonies, according to Fox News.

On September 18th, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hosted a conference in San Francisco discussing the Dream Act.  Forty immigrant protestors called her a “liar,” according to The Mercury News. The protestors distrust her because of  her private meetings with President Trump and they say she is using Dreamers as “bargaining chips”. Pelosi is accused of bargaining the Dream Act for strict border security measures. DACA protestors want protection for themselves and the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, which the Dream Act doesn’t cover.

If she could talk on the behalf of all Dreamers and directly to politicians she would say,

“Nothing comes easy. Keep pushing, keep voting for politicians that will do actions that favor everyone and not just a small percentage and then we can make a difference. Being educated on the subject is helpful. Educate and help educate others. Don’t stay in a box all the time. This goes for both sides. Ending DACA and deporting everyone is not the best way to solve the issue. Reforming the immigration system and making a pathway to residency and citizenship for us will make a positive impact that will benefit everyone. Listen to facts. Don’t hold onto stereotypes.”