Wake Up: We Still Need a Clean DREAM Act

This is our world now: the current occupant sells $50 hats with “American Dreamer” emblazoned on the front; ICE threatens repercussions against Oakland’s mayor for warning city residents of incoming raids; Congress has stalled for so long on passing a clean DREAM Act that somehow, unimaginably, the Republicans are starting to take ownership of it. How soon they forget that said current occupant caused this entire … mess … by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through which President Obama had protected more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

And while they continue their games, hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. DREAMers attend doctors’ appointments, pick their kids up from school, go to job interviews, wait in line at the Post Office – and there behind them, like a thread weaving through every moment, is the American government’s failure to find a way to give back to these people the freedom to live their lives.

It is existential terror. It must stop.

March 5, 2018, was the original date when protection for DREAMers was supposed to end. On February 26, days before the deadline, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have undone the two federal court injunctions that ruled it unconstitutional for the government to deny DACA renewals past that date. This leaves DREAMers in a situation where they can still potentially apply for a renewal of their status past March 5, but like everything related to this issue, that provision is subject to change at virtually any time.

You can help by calling your Members of Congress to demand that they pass a clean DREAM Act! What to say:

Thank you for your strong support of DREAMers. Please continue to work to include a clean DREAM Act in the next spending bill. These young Americans deserve to live without fear of having their families torn apart.

Both Senators Feinstein and Harris are supportive and have staff working on immigration cases, so you can reach out. And if you have any questions about current immigration policy, ICE actions, what is being negotiated in DC, or other issues, please come to our meeting with Senator Feinstein’s state director in Oakland on March 9, 2018.

ISF immigration rally
State Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), at the emergency immigration rally on February 22, 2018. Photo credit Indivisible SF.

 

Public domain image courtesy of StockSnap

My Dream Was to Go Straight to University – Part 2

DACA poster
Photograph by Ann Daniels

Last week we published the first part of an Indivisible East Bay member’s interview with Lara, a DACA recipient. Our last question was whether her parents felt they made the right decision in moving to the United States. Lara ended her response with: “When DACA passed and I was able to go back to school, that alleviated a lot of their guilt and they felt glad I finally had a real chance. But now with what Trump’s done, they regret it all over again and feel guilt all over again for putting me in this situation. I keep telling them, you cannot blame yourself for this.” We continue with Part 2:

How are your siblings handling it?

I think they’re used to me being the strong one. They don’t really ask how I’m doing. Out of my 4 siblings, only one asked me how I was doing after the news. They’re used to me not depending on them.  I’ve been so independent for so many years, they assume that I’m okay. They know I don’t allow myself to sit in the pity pool too long. But I know deep down inside, this time around they really are concerned because this administration is not playing; they are really on a mission to make peoples’ lives extremely complicated. Even though they haven’t expressed it, I know that they really are concerned for me this time.  I know them and this is their way of not discouraging me.

I think they’re more worried about how I might respond one day, with the wrong person. Not so much if I’m going to get deported, but, for example,  if I’m at an event representing Dreamers and someone says something that pushes me over the edge.

Are your siblings politically active?

No, they leave it to me. And it’s so unfair. I tell them, how is it the undocumented one is at the forefront of things? Their answer is “Because we don’t have to. We were born into this privilege.” They haven’t had to fight for anything, so they’re not really concerned.

So…they don’t have to fight for you?

Exactly! And so I said, what about me? “Eh, you’re good at fighting for yourself.” So I envy the families that are there for each other because my siblings live in their own world, chasing their own dreams. I’ve always been so independent, vocal, and active, I guess they’ve never cared to involve themselves because of that. Maybe they see how worked up and exhausted I get, and there’s no off button sometimes, maybe that turns them off. They see how consuming it can be.

But, it’s also because they’re just selfish and immature. I haven’t been home in over 10 years, so they haven’t been there to see me break down. I did it so they wouldn’t have to see how much I suffered. I didn’t want them to see me cry, so I purposefully moved out so they wouldn’t have to see how much I suffered. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do.

You found out about your status when you were in high school. After that, did you see you and your siblings differently?

We were so poor growing up and my dad worked two to three jobs for years. We don’t get Medicaid, food stamps, financial help of any kind, so you depend on your community, neighbors, church. We lived in a two bedroom apartment. Four of us in one room, my parents in the other, until we finally moved to our first house. It was a bad ugly house and my dad and his uncles fixed it up. My siblings all grew up in a house, but I remember living like sardines and dealing with cockroaches.

I’m happy they were able to have their own bed. I’m glad they didn’t have to deal with the cheap Payless shoes and getting bullied for having the same cheap clothes or backpack, and all the things growing up poor entails. But from the very beginning, I always knew we were going to have a very different life.

When I got older after high school, when I saw how hard it was going to be to even find a job, I said I have to get out of here because I don’t want them to see me like this. I was bitter and angry and I resented the situation. I didn’t want to infect them with my bitterness. I had always been the strong, positive, happy, bossy big sister and wanted them to keep that image of me and not the angry, resentful, bitter one. So I moved out. But when I have tried to share what it was like living on my own without them, I feel they don’t want to accept it  and instead, play it down.

When you see that people aren’t willing to hear your story for what it is or want to hear what you have to say, then you stop sharing. But, my parents know everything. I shared everything with them, especially the bad experiences with managers and customers who called me every terrible discriminatory name. That’s a bond that my siblings may resent a little bit because my parents understand my pain. I’m grateful that at least I have always had my parents patience, compassion and understanding.

What are your parents going to do?

For now, I think they are going to move to a smaller property. They came for the American dream and they want to leave us an inheritance. They worked very hard and want to leave us houses and properties just like White Americans. They came to break that stereotype and leave a legacy for their children. They won’t let this discourage them. They taught me to be strong. Like most people, they wanted to be more successful and prosperous than their parents. You always want to be more successful than the previous generation. They’re leaving the bar really high for us.

What do they think their lives would have been like if they stayed in Mexico?

I don’t know. My dad probably would have finished being an engineer. But there’s no way they would have been able to give us an education or the safety to do the things we’ve wanted, be involved in the things we’ve been involved in–music, dance, sports, etc. Most of our family is still there. I probably would have grown up knowing my grandparents — I’ve seen them a handful of times, but I don’t know either side. I have no relationship with them or my uncles, aunts, cousins.

How do you think your lives are different than your relatives in Mexico?

It’s black and white. I see pictures of the homes they live  in — dirt floors or cement floors. The quality of the houses, the sizes of the room, the clothes they wear, the diet they have — it’s what’s affordable. My parents are seen as more prosperous in comparison.

If we know anyone who is traveling there for the holidays, we always send stuff. Mostly clothes, shoes, school materials — binder paper, pencils, crayons, everything. Money every month to my grandparents to help. My grandparents were blue collar workers and farmers, so there’s little to no pension or retirement. Now that they’re older, we help take care of them and pay their bills. We send what we can. Had we stayed there … I don’t know. I don’t think my siblings would have been able to explore and experiment in the arts, music, and sports the way they have here. I wouldn’t have found a purpose or reason to become socially active at the capacity I have done. It’s safer here — over there, it can mean death a lot of the time if you get too loud or political. Here, at least I know I can be socially active and it won’t cost me my life. I don’t think I would be the person I am. I’d probably be like my cousins — at least we’re here together, at we have food, clothes, a bed. But being part of this country and raised with the idea that you can do better if you sacrifice more and work harder, I can never imagine myself being satisfied with just making it. You always hear about the American dream and reaching for new heights — I wouldn’t have this personality, I think. I wouldn’t be such a fighter, such a life hustler.

You don’t hear about the equivalent in Mexico, “The Mexican Dream.”

There isn’t. I guess the Mexican dream is, you have a little house you can leave for your kid, that you probably built yourself with your parents, siblings and cousins. But here, it’s so different. I’m so proud of my parents for the American dream they’ve accomplished. They have left such an amazing legacy and high standards for us. They came with a baby and a bag of clothes and they’ve accomplished so much, even with their limited legal status. They instilled a work ethic, and stressed that discipline and sacrifice is essential for anything you want. To be willing to always pay that price — so essential for any goal. That’s the Mexican Dream.

When they left, did they know people here?

Yes. They stayed with my mom’s sister for a few months until they had enough money to rent a room. When my mom got pregnant with my brother, we moved to a one bedroom apartment.

Was it common for other aunts and uncles to come to the US?

Yes, but only In the 80s. Just a few of us lived here. My parents are the only homeowners in our entire family. It required extra hard work, extra discipline that many families weren’t willing to do. My parents had a dream, so they agreed on what we were going to have to live without and were willing to do whatever it took. It’s interesting to see that now they’re the only ones among those who came over in the 80’s who are considered “successful”.  But so much of what Trump is doing against my community, it’s bringing back a lot of the same anxiety. We’re going to make it. We’ll figure it out as a family the way we always do.

How has your husband been handling it?

He is awesome. Fortunately my husband is a citizen. If both of us were undocumented, it would be double the stress and double the what-ifs. He’s very much like me — very optimistic, positive and he’s also a life hustler. Always finds a way to survive. We’ll find a way and we have faith that God will provide for us as a unit, to help my case and my situation. My husband lets me go through the motions and isn’t judgmental. He doesn’t pretend to understand what I’m feeling, because he’s never experienced my life. HIs patience with me is ridiculous and he’s the most empathetic person I know. He never claims to understand the struggle of being undocumented, though he’s learning what it’s like to be married to a strong undocumented woman!

When you socialize or when he talks to people, I guess he doesn’t talk about your status.

When he thinks of me, he thinks of me the person, so it doesn’t really come up. But folks invited us, for example, on a cruise and I had to explain to them why I couldn’t. We are very honest people and honesty gives opportunities for growth and knowledge. I see it as a way to share my story and help people be grateful for their privilege. There are privileges I have as an undocumented person that I take for granted all the time,  like being able-bodied. I don’t mind sharing my story when appropriate. It doesn’t come up as much now, as a couple. In my 20s, I could never order a beer or a glass of wine when I was out with my friends or on a date,  but now I have an ID. I never told anyone why until my late 20’s.

Being married has changed a lot about how (politically) active I am. It’s also made it easier to see the priorities. Maybe I should leave all of the rallying and protesting to the younger generation. I feel confident that I served my time. I did that already, in the early years.  It’s their turn to take the torch and keep fighting the good fight.

 

A huge thank you to Lara for sharing her story–this is not the last we’ll hear from her, to be sure. We’d love to hear your comments – you can leave them at this post, or email them to info@indivisibleeb.org

 

My Dream Was to Go Straight to University

Many of us likely know people who are DACA recipients, but they may not feel safe enough to tell anyone other than close friends and family about their status.

Meet Lara. Lara’s parents, hoping for a better life, brought her to the United States from Mexico when she was one year old. Lara is a DACA recipient. An Indivisible East Bay member interviewed her a couple of days after Trump announced his decision to terminate DACA. This is Part One of Lara’s story.

DACA poster
Photograph by Ann Daniels

How are you feeling?

I’m okay. Trump’s made it very clear that his interest is not about the people—it’s about whatever makes political sense to him. I wasn’t surprised. He said, “Don’t worry Dreamers, you don’t have anything to worry about”–I had hopes that when he said we didn’t have a lot to worry about, that we actually didn’t have a lot to worry about, but I should have known.

I’m okay now. I’ve cried it out, screamed it out, spoken with a lot of other DACAmented folks and Dreamer students and, it’s disappointing and discouraging, but we’ve been here before. We’re just going to have to find a way to survive and keep going. I’m in a good place. It helps when people who are outside of your DACAmented community offer hope and are supportive.

Did you go to any of the protests?

I didn’t, and one of the reasons why I don’t do those anymore is because if anything happens, not of my doing but if something were to go bad, if alt-right people show up, if there’s a confrontation and the police show up, I know what’s going to happen to me. I can’t afford to risk deportation. If I was still working in a restaurant, still renting a room in a poor neighborhood, or wasn’t married, then maybe. But now I have a great apartment, an awesome job, and am married, so I have much more to lose. I think of those things and can’t risk losing them over a protest. Not to talk down to those who chose to participate and are in my same situation, but that is a risk I no longer choose to take.

Do things feel worse now?

Yes. Because before when we would protest and rally, there weren’t people waiting to physically fight  us and there weren’t SWAT police with guns pointed at us. There weren’t agents from ICE waiting to round us up, the way they are now. We always knew it could happen but now there’s a militarized cop presence. We didn’t have to worry about  crazy white guys showing up with swastikas. The concerns were always there in the back of our minds, but they weren’t in our face the way they are now. It’s not worth me risking my job, my actual  life, putting my husband in that position, stressing my parents out, over a movement that is always going to be there. I just can’t afford to be the one getting arrested any more.

Are you careful about how you reveal your status?

Most people who are close to me know because I’ve been so vocal these last few years. So, I’m not afraid of people seeing my Facebook posts or my views being seen or heard by the public. All the information I share is never my personal, private info. It’s more about information and resources  to assist others. I’m very careful about what I do post and am selective about who I accept on my FB page.

When you graduated from High School, what did you think your future was going to be?

My dream was to go straight to a university and not waste time with community college, and become a lawyer. But discovering my status brought all that to a complete stop.  It’s the story of most of us. Every single dreamer I know, we all have the same story. We didn’t know until the end of high school when we tried to apply for drivers’ permits. Otherwise, when do you ever ask your parents for your social security number? Until you need your driver’s license. When I was told that there is no social security number, that I can’t have a way of acquiring a license and I can’t go to university because I don’t qualify for financial aid and I don’t qualify for scholarships, that was just like wait, what do you mean? But I’ve been here in the US  my entire life. I asked them: “Can’t I just apply to become a citizen?” My parents explained that no, because you’re Mexican–the laws are different.

I had known people who had come here from other countries who had become legalized quickly, but saw over the years how much harder it was for people from Mexico. It was devastating. So I decided, I’m just going to graduate now. I’d always been ahead in my classes, so as a junior I was already taking the 4th year of English. I took economics and government over the summer and graduated a year early so I could get a head start on community college. Since I knew it might take me longer than most people to go through community college, I started earlier and finished in two years at Delta College in Stockton. But even with that, I learned that nobody wanted to hire me with just an AA and especially without a social security number. I decided I had to go to a university and get a degree, but I also needed to work, so I started working a full time job and a part time job. I enrolled at De Anza College and got a paralegal degree. I thought to myself, if I can’t be a lawyer, at least let me be a paralegal and get my foot in the door. And no one would hire me because I didn’t have a social security number. The attorneys would all say: “You know you seem like a great girl with lots of enthusiasm, but I can’t hire you.”

Just attorney after attorney–it was devastating.

“Just give me a chance, pay me cash, you can pay me a lot less than the other paralegals,”I would say.

But they all said “No, it’s too risky, how can I as an attorney hire you under the table?”

One attorney finally gave me a chance–she gave me an internship and was also the attorney who did my initial DACA application. so it wasn’t until 2012 that I got a real chance. I was her intern and we did a lot of DACA cases and family law. I thought I wanted to do family law, but working with her, I realized I could never be an attorney.  It was a good experience because it made me realize law wasn’t what I should be doing in life.  It also made me see that many people needed  help finding resources. A lot of these small cases were due to the lack of information.

So even though I started at Delta College, then years later went back to attend De Anza, I couldn’t get a real job so I kept all the other jobs–waitressing, being a nanny, cleaning houses. When DACA passed, I said okay, this is my chance to go back to school. When I do get my degree, I’ll have a chance to have a real job. Through AB 540, I could pay resident fees but it was hard to get scholarships. Thankfully, the California Dream Act had just passed, so I was able to apply for financial aid for the first time. [Ed note: Under California law AB 540, certain non-resident students are exempt from paying non-resident supplemental tuition. A student granted an AB 540 exemption is charged in-state tuition and fees].The lawyer convinced me to go back to school. By the time I’m done, I’ll be able to work and that’s what happened.

When your parents told you about your status, were you upset?

Oh yes, I was furious! All my plans went out the window completely. Not just the driver’s license, but everything. I was mad at them for a long time.  Not having legal status affected so many little things. I remember when my friends turned 18 and wanted to go dancing or celebrate at a club, I couldn’t go because I didn’t have a California ID. In my 20s I never went to a bar or club that wasn’t Hispanic-related or a smaller venue where they would accept my Mexican consulate ID. I never joined my friends anywhere because I didn’t have the “proper” ID. Forget about going out to  dance with friends, a Vegas trip or a vacation somewhere. Every time someone wanted to go out and celebrate, I would have to call the place and ask if they accepted the Mexican ID. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself and have them embarrass me again, which had happened before. Not all places accept it even though it’s a government issued ID. It’s where my understanding of racial discrimination first started.

To go from the kind of work you were doing — under the table, unprotected — to working in a professional capacity, what did that mean to you?

I served as a waitress for 11 years — from when I was 20 to 31. I worked at multiple restaurants: Denny’s, Applebee’s, mom and pop restaurants, catering jobs. And of course, those jobs are honorable, but they’re hard, physically straining jobs. Long hours and for years I worked at two or more restaurants, back to back. Especially if (customers) know you’re undocumented, they can get away with more exploitation than with citizen employees. Last year was the first year I’d spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day with my family. I had worked every single holiday before last year, for over 10 years. Places like Denny’s never close. I never got to spend any of the holidays with my family, I always had to work.

Was that common to others or just undocumented folks?

Just to the undocumented folks. As long as you could get the hours on the clock…it was just so complicated. They could go back and change the hours that you worked. It was really hard to endure and especially because the people who come in, they think you’re just an object that is there to serve. You’re there to serve them, to the deepest definition of what it is to serve, and they always use you as a punching bag to let out their frustration.

It was really hard at the end when I was going to grad school because I would serve these people who would speak at me as though I were this ignorant, uneducated “thing” that was just there to bring them their extra ranch or diet no ice, when in reality I was busting my butt to work full-time there and be in grad school full-time. I wanted to say “You have no idea how hard I’m working and how hard I’m trying to make it.” But you can’t say that, right? You can’t say you’re not the ignorant person they think you are and they treat you as. I had to quit because I couldn’t take  it anymore. I was so burned out. People don’t say “please and thank you” and it’s common for folks to not use manners with servers. I knew I was going to get fired if I didn’t quit, that I was going to snap, so I just quit at the end. But it’s really hard, especially on the holidays when all  you want is to be with your family so bad. The pay is only minimum wage. You work for so many hours at minimum wage and tips.

Have you been back to Mexico?

No. I was born there and went back for one Christmas when I was 5 before things got hard at the border, and that was it. I never went back.  

Being a young adult, it really sucked at first, driving without a license which meant that I would have to have a cheap car that I could afford to lose, because if they pull you over, they could impound your car. It was really common before DACA to have a cheap car and be ready to get the next one. Most places won’t give car insurance if you don’t have a social security number. You’d get ticketed for driving without a license and your car would be impounded, and then you’d be stuck. You still have to go to work, pick up your kids. It was really frustrating to know I couldn’t have a nice car. Just the constant fear — when a cop would pull up behind you — trying to look as “normal” as you can. But it’s hard when you can’t have a decent looking car, right? Because you make yourself stand out more by having a cheap-looking car. It’s like a never-ending circle of bad circumstances.

Do your parents feel like they made the right decision?

They have always carried guilt because of me. They wish they had come before I was born. They have always felt so bad for putting me in this situation. But they had no way of knowing — they were 20 years old when they came here, searching for the American dream. They could have never foreseen all this. It’s better here than there. At least here, you can have a decent place to live and food to eat, kids can have a decent education. Just the safety reasons alone make it worth coming over here. People don’t understand how bad it is in Mexico. It’s not just like they show you on TV–it’s actually a lot worse. They carried guilt for years and years and I probably didn’t make it any easier when I was a teen. Once I started seeing that those were the cards I was dealt, and that I had to make them work, I decided because I was the oldest of 5, I didn’t want my parents to worry about me. I never asked them for financial help, ever. I didn’t care if I had to have two jobs, I never wanted them to have to worry about me. They hated that I worked graveyard and they never saw me on holidays, but they were proud I was doing what I needed to do to survive. I wasn’t just feeling bad for myself. I just did what I had to do.

When DACA passed and I was able to go back to school, that alleviated a lot of their guilt and they felt glad I finally had a real chance. But now with what Trump’s done, they regret it all over again and feel guilt all over again for putting me in this situation. I keep telling them, you cannot blame yourself for this.

We’ll post Part 2 of Lara’s story next week. We’d love to hear your comments – you can leave them at this post, or email them to info@indivisibleeb.org

 

You May Say I’m a DREAMer, But I’m Not the Only One

Defend DACA poster
Copyright Brandon Shi

On Tuesday, coward-in-Chief Trump sent his toady Attorney General (Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III) to deliver the damning decision rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through which President Obama, by executive order, had protected more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

With DACA, we promised young DREAMers who were brought here as children through no fault of their own that if they came into the light, we could offer them a chance at legal employment and a reprieve from the constant spectre of deportation. Trump’s evil decision to obliterate this promise plays directly to his racist and anti-immigrant base, and serves only to tear apart families, friends, neighbors, and communities.

Misconceptions about DACA abound, not to mention the vicious lies that Trump and other GOPers spout, many of which Sessions repeated when he told DREAMers they were being shown the door. Eligibility is complicated, stringent, and expensive ($495 every 2 years) – and meeting them did not guarantee approval, let alone review in a timely manner. The basics:

  • Under 31 years old on 6/15/12 and entered US before 16 years old
  • Resided continuously in US since 6/5/07 and physically present on 6/15/12
  • No lawful status on 6/15/12
  • In school or graduated, or honorably discharged military veteran
  • No conviction for felony, significant misdemeanor, 3 or more other misdemeanors, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety

United We Dream and the National Immigration Law Center list the top 5 things for DACA recipients to know about the announcement:

  • Your DACA is valid until its expiration date
  • No new DACA applications will be accepted
  • DACA issuances and work permits that expire between now and 3/5/18 must be submitted for renewal by 10/5/17
  • Advance parole to travel abroad is no longer available
  • We are united in this fight

DACA recipients and applicants should consult a qualified immigration attorney as soon as possible to figure out your rights, responsibilities, and options. You can find much information on the internet, but please make sure that the source is trustworthy. The Department of Homeland Security published a list of FAQs about the rescission.

There are many groups and organizations who work with the immigrant community. “What Do I Need to Know About the End of DACA?” is the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s very helpful community advisory, including links to several good sources of information:

DACA Rally SF
Photo by L Perkins

And for all of us — we must support our DREAMers! This is the Indivisible Guide’s three-pronged approach:

  • Tell your MoC to defend the DACAmented
  • Search for or register an event in your area
  • Use these resources to stand up for immigrant rights

Huffington Post lists several actions, with suggested scripts and links:

  • Let the White House know how you feel
  • Contact your MoC
  • Get the word out on social media
  • And… repeat

Also be aware that a big part of helping includes doing no harm! Written months ago, the 18 precautions in “Don’t Get Your Undocumented Friends in Trouble: A How-to” are even more critical now.

President Obama, who has been generally silent as Trump blasts through and overturns so many of the advances made during his presidency, issued a statement on Facebook in which he said that Trump’s decision is ultimately about basic decency. That is obviously a concept which is wholly foreign to the current occupant of the White House.

Versión en español aquí

Spanish version for distribution