Marching along the streets of downtown Santa Ana Tuesday, Luis Ramirez would not back down.
With a megaphone clutched in his right hand and an army behind him, the sea of protesters flooded the streets, carrying with them waves of protest.
“Down, down with deportation. Up, up with liberation,” they chanted, their shouts echoing across the city. Men, women and children bore flags and banners with messages of empowerment for the country’s undocumented. Musicians strummed their guitars and harmonized to the song of hope, despite the announcement earlier that day that the Trump administration would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — a program that protected almost 800,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Orange County Immigrant Youth United, an advocacy organization led by undocumented immigrant youth, organized the rally Tuesday evening in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement earlier the same day. The rally is only one part of the massive opposition President Trump’s decision is meeting from states, business owners and the Santa Ana community.
“We know there are people who are afraid. It is okay for people to be afraid. What is not okay is for people to not be active at whatever level they can,” said Ramirez, a member of OCIYU and a DACA recipient since the program started in 2012. “It is the time to take action. If you want something to change, defend all 11 million that are undocumented in this country. You need to step out.”
In a statement released Tuesday by Santa Ana College’s president and the Rancho Santiago Community College District’s CEOs, the District reaffirmed that it would support the DACA program and DACA Dreamers. The statement included the District would not allow Federal immigration officers on RSCCD campuses, share student records regarding immigration and citizenship status with immigration officials or help create a registry based on characteristics such as religion, race and sexual orientation. The official statement by the president and CEOs includes: “The Rancho Santiago Community College District, Santa Ana College, and Santiago Canyon College remain deeply committed to each and every one of our students and to creating a safe and secure educational environment.”
Undocumented students are an active community at SAC, applying for financial aid and assembling in clubs like I.D.E.A.S., which work to foster safe spaces and environments for students to openly discuss their opinions and feelings. The club hosted “Healing Circle” Thursday for people who wanted to discuss the recent DACA news, assuring undocumented students they would fight to meet their needs and lend their support.”
Despite President Trump’s promises of increased immigration enforcement that surfaced early this year, 414 SAC students applied for the Dream Act by March 1. The Dream Act, signed into law in 2011, permits undocumented students who meet its criteria to receive state financial aid. Financial aid earned through the Dream Act also remains legal under California law, regardless of actions made at the federal level.
California is home to over 25 percent of DACA recipients according to a 2015 report by United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led organization. As of March 31, 2017, a total of 459,362 DACA requests were accepted in California, while 424,995 applications were approved, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” are protected from deportation for two years, and could then apply to renew their status. Approved immigrants are also eligible to attend school and receive authorization. Over 90 percent of Dreamers are currently employed and almost 45 percent of Dreamers are still in school, according to data collected by the think tank Center for American Progress.
“DACA allowed me to work while I was studying, which was the only reason I was able to study. It allowed me to contribute to my family’s income when my father was our primary provider,” said Jose Servin, the Media and Communications Organizer for OCIYU and a Santa Ana College alumni. [Full disclosure: Servin was a former Editor-in-Chief of el Don News]
“I do not know what bubble people live in, but America has been a country of immigrants, and it still is,” said Hunter Jensen, a protester and owner of Knawledge Everywear, an Orange County brand and arts collective focused on sharing unbiased truth within the community through artistic mediums.
“People are coming trying to get an education and become smarter. Think about the negative stigma that it is going to send to these immigrant communities. It is going to polarize even more. The polarization will get worse.”
In a tweet Tuesday night, President Trump stated he would be willing to “revisit this issue” if Congress cannot pass legislation concerning DACA’s termination within the six-month period of the program phasing out. Regardless of Trump’s statement, his administration continues to meet opposition.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Wednesday, stating the administration’s decision to terminate DACA was influenced by bias against Mexicans. The lawsuit notes President Trump’s statements about Mexicans during his presidential campaign as well as his recent paridon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted for refusing to cease traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
FWD.us, an organization founded by leaders in the tech industry, signed a letter Aug. 31 urging the administration to protect DACA. The official letter includes: “ With [Dreamers], we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.” The letter includes signatures from over 600 CEOs, with representation from groups like Apple, Facebook and Google.
In the midst of uncertainty for Dreamers, help is available to guide students and youth affected by the changes.
SAC Psychological Services are also reaching out to those troubled by the recent termination of DACA by offering crisis coverage, informative discussion about the effects of the decision and safe spaces to speak with others and express their feelings freely.
The OCIYU offices are also open to the community, offering access to attorneys, lawyers and “know-your-rights” workshops.
“I see the future undocumented. I see the future brown. I see the future black. I see the future rid of white supremacy and I see the future where immigration reform affects everybody,” Servin said, who believes the next step is to spread positivity and fight for something greater than DACA.