Dreamers Look for Hope Following Rescission of DACA

California Senator Kamala Harris (center) met with DACA recipients including COS student
Jessica Macias Mercado (second from left), to hear their stories. Courtesy/Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights

On September 5, President Trump rescinded DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, established through an Obama executive order in 2012. DACA allowed undocumented children of immigrants to remain in the country for a two-year period of time. DACA recipients have since been allowed to have their status renewed at two-year intervals.

Also referred to as Dreamers, named after the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Minors) introduced in 2001 but never passed, the rescission of DACA means that anyone whose DACA has run out, could be deported to the country of their birth.

During his statement, Trump gave congress six months to pass a new bill to recognize these Dreamers and DACA recipients, before the program would be terminated. No one with DACA documentation is to be deported . . . yet.

There are more than 800,000 DACA recipients in the US. Approximately 200,000 of those are in California, and 47,000 are in Congressman David Valadao’s (CA-21) district which includes Kings County as well as parts of Tulare, Kern and Fresno counties.

Valadao Backs Dreamers

Since beginning to serve in Congress in 2014, Valadao has remained dedicated to repairing the broken immigration system of the US, he has said. His personal connection to immigration, combined with the serious impact policy change will have on his constituents, have provided Valadao with a deep understanding of the issue, especially as it relates to agriculture and our guest worker program.

Recently, Congressman Valadao has thrown his support toward four various bills dealing in some fashion with Dreamers. One is bill HR 1468, the Recognizing America’s Children Act (RAC), which “authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel the removal of, and adjusts the status for a five-year period of, an alien who meets certain requirements.”

This bill was co-sponsored by 32 Republicans and 1 Democrat. HR 1468 has been referred to the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

Another, HR 60, is the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training Act (ENLIST). This bill “authorizes the enlistment in the Armed Forces for certain undocumented immigrants who are otherwise qualified for enlistment and provides a way for the undocumented immigrants to be lawfully admitted to the US for permanent residence by reason of their honorable service and sacrifice in the US military.”

This bill was co-sponsored by 105 Republicans and 106 Democrats. It has been referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.

The most recent bill Valadao has co-sponsored is HR 3440 – The DREAM Act of 2017, which has four Republican co-sponsors along with 196 Democratic co-sponsors.

If passed, this bill would allow young people to earn lawful permanent residence, and eventually citizenship, if they:

 

  • Are longtime residents who came to the US as children;
  • Graduate from high school or obtain a GED;
  • Pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least three years, or serve in the military;
  • Pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of United States history; and
  • Have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country.

 

The bill has been referred to the Congressional Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

Proper Legislation for Dreamers

Valadao has long been in support of finding a pathway for Dreamers to obtain citizenship, he said. And while he is supportive of them, he also feels that the president did the right thing by rescinding DACA, adding that it is up to Congress and the Senate to come up with a proper law for the president to eventually sign.

“Obama didn’t do it the right way,” he said. “The president doesn’t have the right to make that decision. Trump said, ‘It’s your [Congress’] project to fix this.’”

“The Central Valley is strong in agriculture,” he said. “We rely on immigrant labor. They bring their kids.”

Congress has “failed” to implement a reliable system for these children, he added.

“I’d like to fix that,” he said. “And, so that we don’t have to do this again.”

The VISA system needs to be fixed and the borders to need to be secured, he added. He also cited that securing the boarders does not only affect people, but invasive species of insect life, that could devastate crops as well.

“Most reasonable people think that keeping the border secure is important,” he said.

Today, he said, he feels that HR-3440 has the best chance of being passed. He added that he hopes that something can be attached with regard to agriculture labor, as well.

It has been reported by various national news outlets that, following a dinner at the White House last week, Congressional Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senatorial Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said an agreement was made between them and the President regarding DACA legislation and border security.

Valadao commented, while he was not in attendance and not privy to the conversation, the President was probably not thinking of HR-3440 – but, Pelosi could have been. Following the Pelosi-Schumer announcement, the President did say that while positive discussion was made, there was no deal as of yet.

As for the six-month deadline, “I think there is a real chance,” Valadao said, that some legislation could be passed in favor of DACA recipients.

Meanwhile, Dreamers are once again on defense – demanding their rights.

One Visalia DACA Recipient Continues to Speaks Up

Jessica Macias Mercado last spoke to the Voice in May. She continues to become more vocal in her quest to protect DACA and Dreamers.

A full-time College of the Sequoias (COS) student, carrying 16 units, Macias Mercado, 21, has lived in the US since the age of one. Her parents are separated, and her father now has dual citizenship and is a US citizen. Her four older siblings were born in the US, and therefore are also US citizens. But, she and her younger brother were born in Mexico. She has just renewed her DACA paperwork and is good for another two years, she said.

Now, “I’m a little confused more than anything,” she said. “I read a lot of articles – I am not sure what he [the President] is trying to say.”

Macias Mercado was one of eight DACA-documented students attending a round-table discussion with Senator Kamala Harris (CA-D) in Los Angeles, the end of August.

“Our DACA young people have been living a lawful life,” Harris said. “You have all been enrolled in school, in college. DACA recipients have been serving in our military. DACA recipients are working in Fortune 100 companies. This is who the population is. We as a nation should be proud of these young people, for everything we expect you to do.”

During the meeting Macias Mercado said, “I grew up always knowing, ‘you’re undocumented.’ You have to be careful, you can’t do what other kids do, you can’t be out late; you can’t do anything your friends are doing. It is mentally eroding not to be able to be like everyone else.”

After meeting with Harris, Macias Mercado said, “She [Harris] seems very dedicated to getting this [Dreamer Act] done.”

“Maybe I can make a difference,” she said. “Everybody needs to get involved.”

More DACA Students Stand Up

Diego San Luis Ortega, 20, has gotten involved. He, too, is a DACA recipient who attends COS.

He was born in Mexico and came to the Central Valley at around the age of 1, where his parents sought work, he said.

His younger brother and sister were both born in the US, and are, therefore, US citizens. He is not.

His parents pushed him to apply for DACA when it was first implemented, and he did.

San Luis Ortega is a graduate of Redwood High School, where he played on the water polo team, served on the Academic Decathlon team, and was involved in robotics.

His current major is history, although he would also like to study counseling and is planning to someday receive a Master’s Degree in each.

He was, at first, hesitant to share his story. But now, considering the possible ending of DACA, feels he needs to stand up for his rights.

“I feel a need to start fighting back,” he said.

He feels strongly that Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the US, which is their country.

He also feels strongly that the parents of Dreamers should not be held accountable for their adult children.

“They saw that in Mexico, we wouldn’t be able to make it,” he said of his own parents. “They made the ultimate sacrifice and I’m repaying them by being successful. They, too, should be able to become citizens.”

When they moved here, San Luis Ortega’s parents would take any odd jobs they could get. He remembers some days going with them to work, and sometimes not seeing one or the other of them, when he got home from school, before going to bed.

“It made me who I am, really,” he said.

“We’re [Dreamers] just like everyone else. We’re students, we’re workers, we’re athletes, we’re first responders – we’ve given so much to this nation,” he said. “We’re going to fight for it.”

He wants to “fight” for the right to stay and achieve citizenship, he said, and he added that he wants to be that voice.

For others, San Luis Ortega suggests that they learn their rights and become unified.

“Find your voice,” he said. “There’s strength in numbers.”

Senator Harris has also given advice to all DACA recipients on her Facebook page –

In light of the recent DACA decision, here is some important information regarding what the changes mean for DACA recipients:

USCIS is not accepting any new applications for DACA.

If you have DACA status, it is still valid until it expires.

Applications for DACA recipients to travel abroad and re-enter the US, also known as advance parole, are no longer accepted. If you travel outside of the United States, you will lose your DACA status.

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