Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

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Possible End to Dreamers’ Dreams

By Duwayne Escobedo

Sofia’s parents encouraged her to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). They started their lives penniless and wanted their oldest daughter to earn a college degree and have a better chance at success.

Now, Sofia fears that their love for her may result in her parents, who have illegally lived in the United States for almost 21 years, being deported back to western Mexico along with her.

President Donald Trump demanded this month that Congress take action in six months or he would act unilaterally to end the controversial program. DACA was created by former President Barack Obama through a June 2012 executive order that allowed minor children of undocumented immigrants to work and receive other benefits with permits renewable every two years.

To qualify for DACA, Sofia had to provide all of her personal information, even her fingerprints, to the federal government.

“Their goal was always to give me a better life,” Sofia said of her parents. “Now it’s scary that it might be used against them. I thought it would be good until something better arose. I never thought it would come to this point. I never thought it would be possible.”

More than 800,000 children of undocumented parents, known as Dreamers, signed up for DACA. The Pew Research Center estimated that up to 1.7 million could be eligible.

Trump’s announcement has led to protests around the country. An odd mix of organizations has come out in support for major elements of DACA and have called for a path to citizenship. The list includes labor unions, the construction industry and leaders of some of the nation’s biggest companies, including Accenture, Adobe Systems, Amazon, Best Buy, Cisco Systems, Crate and Barrel, Facebook, General Motors, Google, Hilton, Intuit, Levi Strauss, Netflix and PepsiCo.

A group of Dreamers and the state of California have sued the Trump Administration over the ending of DACA.

During his presidential campaign, Trump pledged the demise of the program. However, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted after the president announced a phasing out of the program showed that 53 percent of all Americans want lawmakers to implement DACA into law. Among those who say their primary allegiance is to Trump rather than the GOP, less than half, 49 percent, supported the end of DACA.

Politicians have showered Trump with criticism across the country, including Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. She said Dreamers are essential to the economic and cultural identity of the state.

“Many of them know no other home other than Oregon,” Brown said. “We want them here.”

Entered As Children
And Dreamers want to be here. They often have no memory of the towns their parents left to seek prosperity in America.

Maria told Inweekly she was eight months old when her mom crossed the Mexico-Texas border with her on their way to Montgomery, Ala. They moved to Pensacola about a dozen years ago when she was seven.

She said DACA allowed her to get a driver’s license and buy a car, get a good job and, when she saves enough money, to attend college.

“I didn’t have anything,” Maria said. “DACA was an opportunity. I felt like I had to do it in order to have the stuff I have now.”

Maria said her mom, who is an undocumented business owner, thought DACA was a good idea. She remains optimistic that Congress will make it a law.

“What’s the purpose of removing it?” she asked. “I think that they will talk it out.”

One way Dreamers can ensure permanent residency is to marry an American citizen. Claudia, who used to be on DACA, said she was fortunate to find a spouse. While she has no more worries about DACA ending, she expressed concern for her family and friends.

Claudia came to America with her grandparents on a visa and stayed with them when at the age of 13 they decided to overstay their work permit.

“I’m not sure what they’re planning on doing with DACA,” she said. “I know, personally, if they end the program, my sister has DACA but has no way of getting her citizenship so that she will suffer from that. ”

Claudia’s best friend also registered.  She said. “She just bought a house because she has a social security number. She was working, otherwise, she wouldn’t have been able to buy her house.”

“I personally don’t have a lot to lose on this matter, but my family does and other people I know do,” she told Inweekly. “If I can say something to make a difference, then I’m gonna do it, and if I can change one person’s perspective, I’ll do it.”

Sofia, who crossed the border in Arizona with her parents as an infant, pointed out both her mom and dad own local businesses they started around 10 years ago. They’ve never relied on government assistance.

“They’re not legally documented,” she said. “But they’ve been able to live a productive life.”

Maria’s mom and stepdad also have worked hard to carve out a decent life, despite their lack of formal education and immigration status.

“My mom is my backbone,” she said. “She’s the backbone of our family. Our lives would be hard without her.”

Claudia said she hopes lawmakers one day will vote to implement an immigration policy that makes sense for immigrants and citizens alike.

“I mean, I was never a fan of Trump to begin with, but I don’t know if people realize that even when Obama implemented DACA, we knew that this wasn’t a permanent solution,” she said. “I mean, this was kind of like a band-aid over the thing because it really doesn’t solve anything.”

Claudia added, “We’re not planning on leaving. We’re giving to the economy of this country.”

Editor’s Note: Sofia, Maria and Claudia agreed to talk with Inweekly under the condition that we would do it anonymously. They feared retribution toward their families.