Sanctuary State Vote Brings DREAMer Out to Comment

Despite what the president may say, DREAMers are not immune to being picked up by ICE agents.

On February 14, a CNN report on the detention of 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina in Tacoma, Washington following his arrest in his father’s home, observed that “The case raises questions about what it could mean” for the 750,000 DREAMers, who had “received permission to stay under DACA.”

“On March 7, the Los Angeles Times reported that 22-year-old Daniela Vargas of Jackson, Mississippi became the second DACA recipient to be detained by the Trump Administration, further raising speculation about President Trump’s commitment to DREAMers and questioning whether immigrants who speak out against the administration’s policies should fear retaliation,” according to Wikipedia.

DACA and DREAMers

Both have been released. However, “questions remain regarding the future of DACA recipients due to the Trump administration’s initial plans,” according to Wikipedia.

During a packed house April Tulare City Council meeting, Jessica, a 20-year-old DREAMer from Visalia, chose to speak in favor of the city standing behind California as a sanctuary state (SB-54). The issue had been brought to council attention by Councilmember Jose Sigala, and placed on the agenda.

SB54 is the bill facing the state legislature which would prohibit law enforcement, within the state, from detaining individuals due to their immigration status. The bill is often referred to as a sanctuary state bill. It is also, often, misunderstood.

A full-time COS student, Jessica has lived in the US since the age of one. She has asked for her last name not to be used in this article.

Jessica’s father is a US citizen. Four of her older siblings were born in the US, and therefore are also US citizens. Her parents had crossed over the board illegally and had her older siblings – her dad had gained his citizenship, but they moved back to Mexico for a while. One brother and Jessica were born in Mexico, and brought to the US. Since their mother is not a US citizen, neither of the younger two siblings are. Jessica has applied through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) twice and is currently working on her third set of papers.

The DACA immigration policy was founded by the Obama administration in 2012. It allows undocumented immigrants who entered the States as children, a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation along with a work permit, while working toward citizenship.

DACA individuals are often also referred to as DREAMers (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), a legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for illegal immigrants that would grant conditional residency and upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency. Introduced in 2001, and reintroduced several times, the bill has never been able to pass US House and Senate. Individuals generally referred to as DREAMers as those in their late teens through their ‘20s.

Tulare City Council Meeting

During her three minutes’ comment at the Tulare Council meeting, Jessica said, “I want to start off by saying, first off – people are not legal, people are not illegal – we are either undocumented or documented.

“I myself am a dreamer, I was blessed to be able to gather over $1,000 to be able to apply for my DACA. I was able to be approved through my hard work. I have been here since the age of one, and I have worked my butt off to be able to stay here, and be welcomed in your home. I understand that this is your home and that is why I follow the rules. I am here because you guys allow me.

“But, I do want SB-54 to be passed.”

She explained that the US is a melting pot and there is a variety of cultures from everywhere around the world – through religion and ethnicity.

“DACA is a three-year commitment,” she said. “It costs about $500 to apply for that, and it’s only for three years. I applied for residency in 2004, and I am still awaiting that – it has been over a decade since I applied. I am involved – I am politically involved – I am in college – I am a teacher to be.”

She spoke of harassment within the country, and within Tulare County, of race and sexual preference.

“It’s not far from home – we have to do something about it,” she said.

“I am personally lucky, to be accepted for who I am and my culture – I speak fluent English. I am good at what I do in school – I study so that I can be good and keep going. But not everybody has the same opportunities I do. My parents had to work their butts off to be able to give me what I have, and even then we were in poverty – even then we couldn’t get medical, because the state doesn’t give it to undocumented folk. I was undocumented until I turned 16. I had to live in fear of not having those I love around me.”

She spoke of the importance that SB-54 would not protect those who break the law – criminals will face consequences and should be deported, she said.

“I don’t think being here illegally is cause to be deported, but that’s my opinion,” she said.

Jessica’s passion did not go unnoticed. She was one of approximately 25 individuals who spoke on the issue. More spoke opposed to SB-54, then in favor.

During a follow-up of council discussion, Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones mentioned Jessica and what she had to say. He adamantly spoke against hate and hatred. He talked about Jessica. And, he talked about the importance of immigrants in Tulare County. He talked about SB-54.

“If I am going to vote on it, I am going to read it,” he said.

“Jessica – the student who spoke, to me that’s what we have to protect,” he said. “She came here with her family. She didn’t have a choice. But while she is here, she’s been good in school, she’s been good in college, she’s been good by her country, she spoke better English than most of us in here, and she wants to be an American.

“If had read SB-54 and it would have talked about protecting people like Jessica, I wouldn’t care what money we may lose [from the federal government], I’d be for it. But, I read SB-54 and it didn’t talk about people like Jessica – it talked about people who had a trunk full of drugs, and if they are pulled over, our officers couldn’t question their immigration status. I could never be for that.”

He went on to say, he hoped that the US could improve the process of obtaining citizenship.

“I would hope people like Jessica could have a better pathway to citizenship,” he said.

Jessica would like to see that, too.

Life Post November Election

Her parents are separated – her dad has dual citizenship, her mom does not have US citizenship, but does live in California with Jessica.

All of Jessica’s education is from the US – she only lived in Mexico for her first year of life, and has lived in the US ever since. She lived in Nevada at a young age, but they moved to California. She’s never been back to Mexico. Her brother, who also does not have US citizenship, is documented, like her.

Following the November election, Jessica said she was frightened.

“Frankly, I was pretty scared. I remember hearing the news and I was keeping in touch with them [friends], and they were like, ‘well, Hillary won the votes, but Trump won.’

“And, I was like, ‘what?!’

“I was in hysterics. I was so upset.”

It pushed her to get more involved with undocumented people.

“Just because you are undocumented and not a resident, doesn’t mean you have to give up – you can still keep fighting,” she said. “I feel like that is one of the biggest things that has kept me going – my undocumented friends tell me, ‘Jessica, you are such an inspiration.’ And, I think it is beautiful, because it helps people keep going. And they help me keep going.

“I do see all the abuse that is going on with ICE and some police officers. I think that I will be safe, I have a lot of faith in God.”

Jessica said she knows a lot of local police officers, and she knows that the majority of them are good in the area, but in other areas, there may be some who would want to deport someone just because they are undocumented, and there may be some abuse when those who may be deported are in custody. Her mother had been caught crossing the border and was detained. She told stories to Jessica about not being let to sleep lying down and without blankets, and sometimes getting rotten food. But, it did not stop her from trying again and succeeding, which complicates the situation.

A lot of the concern is about the president being elected, Jessica said. People are being a lot more aggressive toward Muslims, undocumented folk – people that are brown, and the LGBT community.

She is much more concerned with the new president now in power.

“I feel that Obama definitely helped people. He did do a lot of deportations, that’s true. But, none of them that frightened the average person – that weren’t breaking laws,” she said.

She heard some “ugly stuff,” at the Tulare Council meeting, she said, bringing it home to the local community. But she has not seen ICE agents in the area.

She is more concerned for others than herself, she said. She feels she looks Caucasian.

“I look white,” she said. “And, I speak well, in English. I don’t really get harassed by people – people assume I’m white.”

Jessica is studying behavioral psychology. She is working toward degree after degree, in order to receive her doctorate and, perhaps, earn a teaching credential. She would like to work with those who have mental illnesses and drug addiction. She would also like to study why people are racist, and why they don’t like people who are different from them, she said.

Support a Sanctuary State?

At the Tulare Council meeting, the motion to support SB-54 did not receive a second to the motion.

“I brought this item forward to the council because there is some genuine concerns and fears,” Sigala said.

“Right after the election, I went out and picked up my lawn signs and talked to folks and I had a lot of children coming up to me – scared – scared about what had happened with the new president, because of the rhetoric that was out there about their parents being deported, about their families being split up and taken away. That was a huge, huge reality for me. And, so I brought this thing forward.

“I talked with the Chief [Hensley] many times and had many conversations about this. The last few previous meetings, I brought an item to talk about – what our police department is doing, and I commend Chief Hensley and his department for their stance. It is a department policy not to participate with ICE and not to be participating in immigration raids.”

Vice Mayor Maritsa Castellanoz said, “When this first made it on the agenda – I was not present. I feel that some things may be premature.”

She asked Chief Hensley the proper procedure when someone is arrested – whether they are legal or illegal, are they taken to the county jail? Hensley replied, yes.

“So, we may never be faced with having to put ourselves in a position where we are doing an investigation in illegal immigration,” she said.

“That’s correct,” said Hensley. “That’s never happened in my 30+ years with the force. That’s not something that would be a matter of process for us. That would be the sheriff’s department’s responsibility.”

“We have allowed this to be on an agenda, when it should not have been on the agenda to begin with,” Castellanoz said. “We’re not facing that today. I don’t see that we’ll be facing them anytime in the future.

“We’re creating a wave in our community, which is never anything I like to do. There’s fear out there and I hope, that those who are fearful, can believe that we have the best interest of all citizens, whether they are documented or undocumented.”

Following the motion in support of SB54 by Councilman Sigala, no second was made, leaving any support for the bill on the table.

DREAMers and those in DACA, are not immune to deportation.

According to a USA Today article, dated April 18 –

“After spending an evening with his girlfriend in Calexico, Calif., on Feb. 17, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who has lived in the U.S. since age 9, grabbed a bite and was waiting for a ride when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer approached and started asking questions.

“Montes was twice granted deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama and left intact by President Trump.

“Montes had left his wallet in a friend’s car, so he couldn’t produce his ID or proof of his DACA status and was told by agents he couldn’t retrieve them. Within three hours, he was back in Mexico, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported by the Trump administration’s stepped-up deportation policy.”

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