DACA recipients signaled their resolve and commitment to fight for legal status last week after President Donald J. Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which has shielded them from deportation and given them work permits.
“I pretty much figured it was going to be rescinded, so I have been preparing myself for it,” said América Yareli Hernández, a Valley Dreamer who has been under the protection of DACA since October 2012.
“To me personally, I feel that this is just the beginning of a fight. As much as I disagree with Trump on many issues, I do believe that Congress has a job to do and it needs to do something about it that is permanent,” said Hernández.
“I don’t think is fair that they keep hanging it over our head. I do believe Congress needs to step up.”
Last week, community members and many organizations that advocate for immigrant rights gathered in front of the Robert E. Coyle Federal Building in downtown Fresno to express their disenchantment and opposition to the decision by the White House to end the DACA program which has protected 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation across the United States.
“DACA is a program that has benefited some 800,000 people in this county, many of them in California, many of them here in the Central Valley,” said Jesús Martínez, chair of the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative.
DACA, which was established by the Obama administration in 2012, has allowed approximately 800,000 Dreamers nationally to come out of the shadows, have been able to work legally, pay taxes, served their communities as well as in the military without fear of deportation. Of those Dreamers, 200,000 live in California.
Hernández is a Fresno State graduate with a bachelor’s in Chicano and Latin American Studies and a minor in English and Spanish. She is among about 61,000 DACA-eligible residents in the central San Joaquín Valley.
Hernández, who is in her 30s, said DACA changed her life tremendously.
Since getting DACA, she has been able to get professional jobs and also is a proud homeowner. Hernández has also been very active promoting immigrations rights, a passion of hers to help others in similar situations.
Allison Davenport, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, wants to make sure people have the right information.
“I think we are all feeling a lot of emotions, anger, sadness, frustration, exasperation, but we are also feeling determined and with a renew sense of commitment to support the immigrant community during this time,” Davenport said.
Davenport gave a quick overview of what the new order says and what might it means for DACA recipients like Hernández and those who were interested in applying for DACA as well as basic tips of what the community can do.
“The first thing I want to say and maybe the most important, people who have DACA, who have an approved DACA case and work permit, are still protected from deportation and still have a valid work permit and are able to work legally in the United States until that work permit and DACA approval expires,” Davenport said.
Davenport said the biggest change is that the DACA program will be phased out over time.
Those who applied for DACA for the first time anytime over the last several months, and the application is pending by Sept. 5, will have their application process normally, said Davenport.
“We really want people to continue to go with their appointments with immigration and allow the normal processing of their cases,” she said.
Davenport also said DACA renewals will be processed normally as well, with a decision coming from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Davenport said no renewal applications will be allowed after Oct. 5.
However, Davenport said that only renewals that would be accepted are for those DACA status would expire anytime between now and March 5.
“My DACA will expire in October of next year,” said Hernández. “The pressure is on a lot of us. I have one year left. I have a house, I have a car, I have a job, and I am worried. I don’t know what is going to happen to that next year.”
Her DACA card expires after March 5, 2018.
“If nothing gets done in Congress, which we all know that’s a really possibility. They can make promises all they want, but to actually act on it who knows how long it’s going to take to actually happen. And that is worrisome.”
DACA will be phased out over the next 2½ years, unless Congress acts on a DACA renewal or replacement.
Martínez said many of the conference partners have played an important role.
“These aren’t just advocates, these are people who have been in the trenches serving immigrant families here in Fresno and the Central Valley as a whole,” Martínez said.
“We are very organized as a group,” Hernández said of Dreamers, adding that they have earned the respect of many people in the country as well as data shows that DACA recipients are big contributors.