WASHINGTON — Three of the estimated 700,000 young adults with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status said they remain undaunted after years of little to no action on their behalf in Congress and the courts, including the Nov. 12 Supreme Court hearing that could enable the Trump administration to cancel the program.
All born in Mexico and arrivals to the United States when they were age 5 or younger, the three young adults were part of an Ignatian Solidarity Network “public witness” outdoor gathering early Nov. 18 mere blocks from the U.S. Capitol on a plaza ironically named Columbus Circle.
Following a rally, the young adults — alonmg with about 1,500 other participants from an Ignatian Solidarity Network weekend teach-in on such justice issues as immigration and climate — visited members of Congress to put faces on the DREAM Act.
DREAM — an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — is a bill that would grant residency status to qualifying immigrants who entered the United States as minors.
For Saul Rascon Salazar, 18, a freshman at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the implications of DACA and being in this country without legal documents didn’t become clear until he was 15. Growing up in Phoenix, he said, he pondered typical questions 15-year-olds often ask each other — “When are you going to get a driver’s permit? When are you going to get your first job?” — until his parents told him, “Oh, by the way, you’re undocumented.”
Rascon said that when he was 5, his parents brought him and his younger brother into the United States from Sonora state in Mexico because “the United States offers a higher sense of stability — and the violence in the city we grew up in.” His parents subsequently had a third, U.S.-born child.
Rascon is now studying international relations at Loyola Marymount — he said he wanted to continue “in the Jesuit tradition” after having attended Jesuit-run Brophy High School in Phoenix — and is active in the Dream On campaign, which advocates for youths and young adults who have DACA status or are DACA eligible.
Arlin Tellez, a sophomore at Trinity Washington University, has a double major in international relations and political science and said her life story might have had a role in her chosen fields of study. An only child, Tellez remembers “not very much” about Mexico, which she left at age 4 before her family settled in North Carolina. She added that she would have liked to have remained there to continue her education, but “North Carolina has a lot of restrictions.”
However, Tellez was able to attend Trinity as a recipient of a full-tuition scholarship from TheDream.US, which has provided scholarship aid to dozens of students at Trinity and hundreds of others at participating U.S. colleges and universities.
“Our faith keeps us strong,” Tellez said of herself and other DACA students at Trinity. She is not fazed over the Supreme Court hearing or what it might decide in the DACA case. At issue in the case is President Donald Trump’s claim that he has authority to end the program, which former President Barack Obama established by executive order in 2012.
“Manmade laws are not the same as Jesus Christ’s divine law,” Tellez said.
Named after St. Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, 24-year-old Jose-Arnulfo Cabrera came to Cincinnati from Oaxaca state in Mexico when he was 4. He attended a Jesuit high school and Jesuit-run Xavier University, also in Cincinnati.
Cabrera said he can recall being conscious by the seventh grade about his status in this country, which led to his current work as an activist and organizer with the Ignatian Solidarity Network. He remembers one day when DACA backers occupied “all the Obama (campaign) offices”; he had been one of those in Kansas City.
Then one day, “My mom called me on the phone. I can remember it, because I was working in a mechanic’s garage. She said, ‘He’s making the announcement right now’” on DACA.
Cabrera said having DACA status enabled him to pursue a life in issue activism, including spending one year with Network, the Catholic social justice lobby. In his current job, he is able to help out his family financially and contribute toward the college expenses borne by his younger sister, he added.
He also is not bothered by the possibility of a Supreme Court decision going against him. “I think it’s important to see so many fellow immigrants from around the country” outside the Supreme Court the day of the hearing, he said.
“The DREAM Act, it’s going to be law, and we’re fighting for it. We’re going to the bring the fight to them,” Cabrera said of lawmakers.