DACA in the Meeting Room

If you have been following along, you already know that several of my students pursued DACA stories. This ambitious student actually covered two meetings that fall semester – one to fulfill the public meeting requirement, and this one for her spot news assignment.

By Sarah Niderost

DACA supporters packed City Hall last Monday for a San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission hearing to learn what the futures for “Dreamers” might look like in the aftermath of the Trump administration announcing DACA’s termination.

The hearing occurred six days after the Sept. 5 announcement about DACA.

About 800,000 Americans are Dreamers – those who are supported by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Established in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, DACA allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable, two-year period of deferred action from deportation. DACA participants are also eligible for work permits. The Trump administration has called DACA unconstitutional.

Representatives of nonprofit organizations were invited to speak at the Immigrant Rights Commission hearing. They speculated on the future of their respective organizations and what the end of DACA might mean for its recipients.

Ana Herrera, managing attorney of Dolores Street Community Services, works with the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN) and the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative (SFILDC) to develop and organize legal services for residents facing immigrant detention and deportation. Herrera spoke on behalf of her organization that plans to continue supporting DACA recipients after the termination. She said that her organization has assisted 200 DACA applicants since 2012.

“As you all know, they are our co-workers, our friends, our family and simply put, they’re our community,” Herrera said. “All advocacy moving forward needs to come from a   ffected community members first. We need to hear from those most affected.”

She praised what she described as “dedicated community-based organizations, city agencies and nonprofits.” She said she believes that somewhere in the city, “there’s a DACA workshop every day because someone wants to renew” his or her participation in DACA.

The Dolores Street Community Services outreach team is trying to find young people who are trying to renew as DACA recipients. Those who can renew by Oct. 5 will receive protection for two more years.

“Our No.1 priority right now is to find anyone who is eligible for renewal and have them apply with one of our agencies and help them with the fees if they are unable to provide them,” Herrera said. “It’s great that we work in the collaborative. We have been working together for so many years, and we know each other, and if we can’t do it, then someone else in the collaborative can provide those services.”

Mayra Jaimes, program manager of DreamSF Fellows, is a DACA beneficiary who cannot apply for a renewal by Oct. 5, meaning her work permit will expire. Despite her disappointment, “I’m not mourning its loss,” she said, referring to DACA. “It is a privilege afforded to me.”

Within her immediate family, three younger siblings are U.S. citizens, Jaimes said, whereas she and her parents are undocumented. After the Trump administration’s announcement, her mother, aunt and uncle sent her text messages encouraging her to hold out hope for herself. But Jaimes noticed that they didn’t include themselves in their optimism, a sign of “unspoken political division” between immigrants and the young children they brought with them into this country.

“It’s really like placing a Band-Aid over a bullet wound,” Jaimes said about DACA. “It will not stop the bleeding. But someone can say they treated your wound. Trump has just ripped off this Band-Aid. After five years, we are in exactly the same position that we were in five years ago—no real solution to our immigration system. And, a deportation machine to pick us off. Under the Obama administration, he created DACA, but he also created an efficient deportation machine. And now it’s in the hands of Trump.”

She added, “We are in a very important, pivotal, historical moment—where we can change the narrative in our position.”

DreamSF fellowship recipient Mario Alvarado Cifuentes is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and a DACA recipient. Last week’s DACA announcement directly impacts his family because his parents never qualified for DACA.

“Now, more than ever, my family is in danger of being separated,” Cifuentes said. “The recent rhetoric, especially the Dreamer narrative, has thrown my parents under the bus. Because I came to the U.S. when I was small, that somehow makes me more deserving than them. Yet my success could not have happened without my parents and my community. Please advocate for all immigrants, not just the so-called Dreamers.”

Cifuentes suggested that commission members ask the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee for funds for legal screenings for all undocumented people of the city. “At the end of the day, I will not throw my parents under the bus just for my legality in this country,” he said.

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