A. Chavez / SFVS

Nestor - Dreamer, Business Owner

Thousands of immigrants with DACA permits — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, often referred to as “Dreamers” — find themselves starting 2020 still in a state of limbo as they have no option but to wait for a Supreme Court decision on the future of the program. That decision will determine their future.

DACA recipients were encouraged to come out of the shadows during Obama’s administration and were reassured that they would not be deported if they identified themselves. But many have now taken cover as they’ve seen the green light given to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to reopen long closed deportation cases against those holding permits and President Trump’s desire to close the program. 

On Nov. 12, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against DACA and is expected to issue its final decision by the end of the court session in June 2020.

Attorneys, immigrant rights advocates and DACA recipients attended a recent press briefing held by the County of Los Angeles and Ethnic Media Services (EMS). DACA recipients were encouraged to stay diligent in their quest to seek support and advice from a credible immigrant rights organization, including the county Office of Immigrant Affairs. Those who were previous DACA recipients but perhaps didn’t renew for a variety of reasons were also encouraged to seek support and advice, including possible financial assistance.

Judith Vazquez, senior adviser to Supervisor Hilda Solis, encouraged the DACA recipients to be diligent and to keep on top of securing their rightful place to stay in the United States.

“It is extremely important that DACA recipients renew their DACA status,” Vasquez said. “On top of its efforts to end DACA, the Federal administration is proposing to also increase the DACA renewal fee from $495 to $765.”

The greater society is affected by these policies, noted Rigo Reyes, executive director of the DCBA — Department of Consumer and Business Affairs Office of Immigrant Affairs for LA county.

“The real impact that these policies are having on our neighbors and our families, coworkers — everyone that I know has someone who is either a DACA recipient or an immigrant. The husband, the wife, even some of the kids,” Reyes said.

Dreamers share their experience

“Nestor” was among the Dreamers who attended the briefing (The Dreamers attending the briefing requested that their full names not be used).

“I have pushed myself all my life to be an example, not only to me and my family, but to what having the DACA program can do for this country. This great program has allowed me and my peers to accomplish our dreams, and throughout these actions, we build the road for others to build their dreams as well,” he said

Nestor, after many years of struggle started his own company, a food export and import business four years ago. “It’s not easy, it is very hard to start your own company. And thankfully, thanks to God, through this great program I’ve met a lot of people who’ve helped me along the way who helped me to get out of the shadows and actually pursue my dreams. And as a business owner, now I can see how I can generate wealth for this country, and give back,” he said.

“I can proudly say that we are involved in our community. This DACA program has changed my life and made it possible for me and my family to help others and other families in this country.”

Nestor said his company now supports thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. “It is a gratifying feeling knowing that as the years pass, my company continues to grow and we continue to add jobs to this country. It also gives me the possibility to travel and see other immigrant communities throughout this country where we’ve made an impact through my company.”

Juan-Carlos is a business partner of Nestor’s, and said he has seen first hand how the DACA program has improved lives.

“I’ve seen the DACA program transform the life of my business partner. He’s a person that gives back to the community, adds value to our American society. He is somebody I can proudly say is not only a business partner, but he is also a friend of mine,” Juan-Carlos said. 

“I have seen him challenge the status quo since the DACA program was put into action. I know for a fact that if Nestor had not had the opportunity to be in the United States of America, he would not have had the same opportunities to beat the odds. I truly hope that our leaders can come to some sort of agreement to keep the DACA program in action.”

Rocio is also a “Dreamer” who currently works for the Central American Resource Center as an intake coordinator for the survivors of violence unit. She is also a playwright, poet, and producer.

“I was born in Puebla, Mexico, I came to the United States when I was 6 years old,” Rocio said. “When I came to this country, the only mindset I had was to become someone in life. Since the age of 6, I was well-aware of every sacrifice my parents had to make in order for me to be here.

“I worked very diligently throughout my schooling years to obtain the best grades a student can get. My focus eventually lead me to a 4.0 in high school, allowing me to obtain a few things in 2012: 1. Obtaining the title of Valedictorian and scholarships from my high school; 2. Obtaining a strong disagreement with my mother after ambitiously telling her that I was going to go to college without her permission. 3. Obtaining DACA.”

Since becoming a “Dreamer,” Rocio said, “my life has been nothing but a bunch of opportunities which I am extremely grateful for,” and that it had changed her life for good.

“DACA allowed me to obtain my first job at my university CSULA, as a peer mentoring advisor for the undocumented students at the second opened dreamers resource center in California. Where I was first able to work with my head instead of my hands — and where I was not overworked or abused because I was undocumented,” she said.

“If there is one thing I can say I got out of Trump, it would be obtaining más ganas (a stronger will and desire) and anger. Of course using that anger to fulfill me positively, obtaining more ganas to keep fighting against the injustices in my community.”

Organizations Including “Dream Centers” Offer Resources

Francisco Rodríguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, pointed out that there is support for students enrolled in community colleges at “Dream Centers” in each of the nine colleges in the system. The Dream Centers can offer legal assistance as well as mental health counseling, which many young immigrants need with so much hateful news and hostility that can feel like it is directed towards them.

“I am an immigrant and I have benefited greatly from public education,” Rodriguez said. “I invite undocumented students to enroll in our schools. I assure you that all your information is confidential, and we have taken steps to protect it.”

Daniel Sharp, the Director of CARECEN – The Central American Resource Center — pointed out that even if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule in favor of the DACA program, all hope isn’t lost.

“We know that 95% of immigrants with DACA don’t have a pending deportation order. That means that if the Supreme Court allows the government to continue with the elimination of DACA, the vast majority of the beneficiaries are not in imminent danger of being expelled from the country. You have to wait for the best and prepare for the worst,” Sharp emphasized.

In other words, each case can still be fought individually and DACA recipients may still be able to stay in this country for several years with new permits obtained before their authorization ends. Which is why attorneys and advocates urge those whose status is tentative to seek good legal advice.

“I ask everyone to reconsider the continuation of the DACA program. My whole business will be affected, as well as others if the DACA program ceases to continue,” Nestor said. “I am not scared, I am confident that our leaders and our community will find a solution and we’ll move forward to make America great again.”

There are several immigrant rights organizations. For more information, contact the Los Angeles County Immigrant Affairs office at (800) 593-8222 or Carecen 213 385-7800 for referrals and assistance