The Dial

Dreamers Keep on Dreaming: Community considers the fight for DACA

Photo credit: Illustration by Amy Chalan

Photo credit: Illustration by Amy Chalan

By Amy Chalan, Lifestyles Editor

Imagine your nation’s leader informs you that you are going to be deported from the country you’ve always called home, because you are considered an “illegal immigrant” by law. 800,000 individuals in the United States, called Dreamers, will soon face this situation owing to President Trump’s planned repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA.

Although the repeal may appear to be of little relevance to students in the Hackley community, the issue is of paramount importance to the residents of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. Currently, an estimated 35,000 residents of the Hudson Valley are protected by the rulings of DACA.

The immigration policy made it possible for individuals who illegally entered the US as minors to get a work permit and protection from deportation. If the US Congress does not take the opportunity to create a plan for current Dreamers, all current Dreamers without a recent 2 year renewal will be immediately eligible for deportation on March 5, 2018.

Due to its large hispanic population, Tarrytown and Westchester have been buzzing with political advocacy for DACA. Former Hackley teacher, Rebecca Garfield, founded the Community for All program which advocates for the local immigrant population by “seek[ing] to collect funds for both emergency legal aid and for community organizing and empowerment”.

The organization encourages students to join the movement and try to encourage Congress to take action before March 2018, through discussion workshops and fundraising efforts. One of Mrs. Garfield’s inspirations for the program stemmed from her experience with her husband, who assists the Hackley soccer and track team.

“The hoops we had to jump through to process that paperwork– the copies of love letters, the plane ticket stubs, the photographs from our seven year courtship…– opened my eyes to just how difficult it is to come to this country via legal channels,” she said.

Although her husband was able to obtain a green card, there are hundreds of thousands of individuals who must wait decades to obtain legal residency in the US. This is why DACA was a significant opportunity for young immigrants, since it offered a legal way to work and live in the US, despite citizenship status.

Former Hackley student Domenique Meneses (‘16) is a Dreamer, and was able to attend Vanderbilt University through her DACA status.

DACA has offered Domenique the opportunity to work, apply for university, and travel. She was afraid of being open about her status due to fear of being judged or perceived differently rather than security reasons, but has developed courage in face of the current political situation.

Although her status came with many opportunities, when applying to college, Domenique was considered an international student since she has DACA status. “It made it difficult for me to gain financial aid and, with many colleges, reduced my chances of acceptance,” she said, since American students are granted preference

Like many other Dreamers, Domenique found herself frustrated with the government’s boundaries on the definition of an American. “I was American in every way except my legal status, and that had been something I had zero control over. I kept being denied acceptance and the chance to live the American dream and contribute to the country I called home,” she said. She hopes the Trump administration will create a path towards citizenship for undocumented immigrants in place of DACA.

Mrs. Garfield points out the impact of  young students like Domenique. “The current political climate is creating huge amounts of fear for local families and students.  How well could you concentrate on physics or Faulkner if you had so much uncertainty weighing on your heart and mind?”

There are still  four months left in the movement to protect undocumented immigrants at Hackley and in the local community, and many ways to get involved. Mrs. Garfield suggested, “Find a way to give back. Undocumented immigrants contribute in so many ways to the running of our communities– and yes, they pay taxes.  Find an organization that supports immigrants and get involved.”

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Dreamers Keep on Dreaming: Community considers the fight for DACA