DREAMers at USC feel uncertainty, fear deportation

first_imgKimberly Alvarado and Ana Mercado are two of the 750,000 DREAMers nationwide who are protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the California Dream Act programs for undocumented people.After former President Barack Obama issued the executive order in June 2012, many undocumented immigrants received work permits and felt protected from deportation. While the DREAM Act only applies in California, the term “DREAMers” is used to refer to undocumented people protected under DACA.Now, under the Trump administration, undocumented students at USC like Alvarado and Mercado fear that they may be deported despite these protections.Although President Donald Trump promised to focus deportation forces on removing criminal immigrants, Manuel Montes, a DREAMer, became the first with DACA status to be deported to Mexico. He was spending time with his girlfriend in Calexico, Calif. when immigration authorities asked for his documentation. Other than Montes, there are currently 10 DACA enrollees in custody, according to United We Dream.For Mercado, a sophomore majoring in contemporary Latino and Latin American studies and sociology, returning to her birthplace Jalisco, Mexico would mean returning to a place she left when she was only three years old.Mercado remembers that when she was younger, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers came to her home. She remembers her mother covering her mouth and telling her to stay quiet.“I remember when they knocked on the door, my mom froze. Everything can go from being OK to not OK in seconds, and I felt that I started to understand that we were different,” Mercado said.  “Even though we call ourselves Americans … I am a foreigner to this country.”Mercado is the president of the student-led group called Improving Dreams Education Access and Success at USC. The group strives to create a safe space and positive dialogue among undocumented students and allies. Despite the support of the club, Mercado still has fears for the future.“There are a lot of scary feelings involved,” Mercado said. “I could be the next one. And it could happen at any point. USC says that we’re protected as long as we are on campus, but what happens when I go home?”After President Donald Trump signed an executive order increasing the enforcement against undocumented immigrants, Provost Michael Quick shared a statement in support of the University’s international community.“We want to assure you that we are fully committed to supporting all members of our Trojan Family — regardless of their national origin or religious affiliation,” the statement said. “We are proud to have, and we are better by having, a richly diverse community. We will do everything we can to ensure all of our academic community can continue to study, research and teach at USC.”Billy Vela, the adviser of IDEAS at USC and the director of El Centro Chicano, believes that the steps Trump is taking against immigrants serve as hints to the future of his administration.“I am deeply concerned about what can happen as [Trump] gives us hints as to what might be coming next,” Vela wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “I think it’s incredibly important for the Trojan Family … to come together proactively in support of our diversity, since [Trump’s] executive orders are impacting many communities within the Trojan Family.”Kimberly Alvarado, a sophomore majoring in psychology, was born in El Salvador and remembers being younger and feeling different from other students. She said that although she didn’t feel completely safe before the election, she is now more fearful.“There’s fear of me being deported,” Alvarado said. “I have two little sisters, and they were born here. If, God forbid, my mom is deported, I will have to drop out of school to take care of my sisters.”According to Niels Frenzen, the director of the USC Gould Immigration Clinic, the University is taking both official and unofficial steps to protect students on campus. He also added that the specifics about the DREAMers’ deportation are unclear.“[The Department of Homeland Security] and Trump have recently reaffirmed that the DACA program will not be terminated,” Frenzen wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “While there have been isolated incidents of DACA immigrants being arrested by DHS, there is nothing to indicate that the new administration is pursuing DACA immigrants for deportation.”Frenzen also said that the immigration clinic provides resources for undocumented and DACA students on campus, including one-on-one appointments and assistance when filling out immigration and DACA applications.Even with the help provided by the University, students like Alvarado still feel that they do not belong in the country.“Parents come to this country to give their children a better life,” Alvarado said. “We’re out here working. We’re studying. And we’re not being accepted. One of the things that hurts me the most is the United States is my home, but it doesn’t recognize me.”last_img

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