LA Dreamers: ‘They may have cut our wings, but we will find a way to keep flying’
Esmeralda Fabián Romero | September 5, 2017
Los Angeles “Dreamers,” faith leaders, educators, elected officials, and community leaders reacted with outrage to the Trump administration’s announcement ending DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
There were tears among the dozens gathered at the Edward Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles right after Tuesday’s announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which they called an act of “cowardice” by Trump.
“Trump didn’t even have the courage to announce to us his decision,” said Luis, a DACA recipient who was “disappointed and sad.”
“We were expecting this, but we didn’t expect the cowardly way in which he announced it,” he said. Luis, like others in the crowd who are DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” declined to give his last name. He had arrived in Los Angeles at age 3 and said the United States is the only home he knows — and will always be. “I’m as American as them, so what hurt me the most is the way Sessions described us as if we were not Americans, when this is the only home we know.”
Luis recently graduated from Cal State Los Angeles with a bachelor’s in communications and is working as a digital director, but he declined to say where.
“It’s not that I’m afraid,” he said. “I lost my fear since Trump became president. In fact, I’m ready, my employer is ready, and my family is ready to fight back along with me.”
He has siblings and cousins who are also DACA recipients.
“They may have cut our wings, but we will find a way to keep flying,” he said.
Ivan, who was brought to this country when he was 9 months old, sent a strong message to Trump and those who have spoken against immigrants.
“A piece of paper doesn’t define me, a nine-digit social security number doesn’t define me, DACA doesn’t define me. DACA may have an expiration date, but not my resilience. With or without DACA, I’m going to stay,” he said.
Diana Ramos could barely talk at the rally. She cried before sharing her story as a Dreamer. “My heart aches today. My community is shattered, but today we stand stronger. We will not be defeated.”
Another dreamer, Yamilex, also could not contain her tears. “I cry not because I’m sad but because I’m angry at the way they are doing this to us,” she said.
She came as a child from Guatemala, where her father was killed, a victim of violence. Her mom, she said, was “courageous to bring me here so I could have a better life, and that’s why I’m not leaving this country. I’m going to fight back.”
Raul Hinojosa, a UCLA professor, joined the rally and told LA School Report that the decision to end DACA will have “a devastating effect.”
“They are currently contributing greatly to society, they are in school, they are working. Now they’re going to have to leave universities, colleges, they won’t be able to work or pay taxes. They are forcing them to go back to the shadows. It’s an absurd tragedy!”
Hinojosa has led DACA research projects at UCLA that have found that the economic contributions to the country by Dreamers over a 40-year life span will represent $3.6 trillion.
“We at the universities will find the way to keep them in school,” he said.
Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), sent a message to the Trump Administration and to Congress to “do the right thing” and to pass the Dream Act. He joined a news conference organized by LA County supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“I’m here to reaffirm our district’s commitment to a place where all students despite their status can get their educational goals and dreams accomplished,” Rodriguez said. ”We value hard work, access, equity, and inclusion for all students. We pledged to keep our doors open for them.”
Rodriguez said that LACCD has the largest number of undocumented students in the nation: 11,000.
Supervisor Hahn said through tears, “One of my staffers, Carlos, is a Dreamer. Carlos is as American as I am. He obtained his college degree while working full time in my office, going above and beyond working for my constituents. He deserves to be here with his family and his friends as much as I do.”
According to the Center for American Progress, almost half of DACA youth are attending school, mostly to get a bachelor’s degree or higher. And nearly half arrived in this country before their sixth birthday; most of them are now in their 20s.
Hahn highlighted that California is home to the highest number of Dreamers, over 200,000 of them. Half of them are in LA.
Solis said, “We have to go after every Republican in Congress so they act and pass the Dream Act now. These Dreamers contribute over $460 billion. This is not only about Latinos, it’s Asians, it’s about people who have given so much to this country.”
Judy London, attorney of Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, advised Dreamers to look for legal advice and told them to remain working until their work permit’s expiration date. Most importantly, she said, “Don’t panic!”
Sessions said there will be a six-month delay before DACA’s end for Congress to pass legislation that would grant Dreamers permanency in the country.
“For those who have work permits before March 5th, 2018, you have a 30-day window to renew that work permit. You should not leave the country, and if you’re outside the country, look for legal support. You can demand to be allowed back in the United States.”
The Coalition for Immigrant Human Rights (CHIRLA) has planned rallies and demonstrations to take place throughout the day in Los Angeles, including a 5 p.m. rally in the Placita Olvera in downtown LA. On Wednesday, CARECEN is hosting a town hall for Dreamers, where experts will answer legal questions and tell them how to avoid scammers.