Talk Shop: DACA and Immigration

The newspaper of Hollister, San Juan Bautista and San Benito County, California
Since 1873. That’s a long time!

It is not unusual for my nine-year-old daughter and I to talk politics.

Even so, I was surprised when last Sunday, while sitting at the kitchen table, Lola asked, “So, what is going on with immigration?”

The NPR evening news program played on low volume and political commentators discussed President Trump’s appeal to Congress to act on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the immigration program that gives eligible undocumented individuals brought to the United States as children the ability to work legally, without fear of deportation.

I started to explain the intricacies of U.S. immigration policy when I was interrupted.

“But, aren’t I an immigrant? I was born in England,” she pointed out, hugging her knees to her chest.

“Well, you are what they call a “naturalized citizen” because I am your mom and I was born in the United States,” I replied. She just squinted.

“Daddy is an immigrant because he’s from England,” she stated.

“Yes, that is true.”

“And when you were in England, you were an immigrant,” she said.

“Yes, also true.”

“Are we in danger?” she asked.

The night Donald Trump was elected to the nation’s highest office, my thoughts turned to a group of high school and college students from Watsonville I had interviewed three years previously.

All were undocumented. One of them had not known her status until she was a junior in high school. All were full of dreams for their future. One wanted to become an oceanographer, another a nurse.

Their stories were familiar. Each contained a mix of struggle, success and hope.

A young woman studying at the local community college had a child and was trying to juggle school, parenting and a job.  

Not having access to financial aid, she had to work more and extend her college program longer than she wanted, but she was happy and thanks to the recent passage of the California Dream Act, which gives eligible undocumented students access to Cal Grants and community college fee waivers, she felt there was relief on the horizon.

I asked all these Dreamers if they would apply to DACA, a program President Barack Obama enacted through Executive Order after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform and address the biggest elephant in the room-the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

Most said they had already or would apply in the near future. Students in Dreamer Clubs at local high schools trained with immigration advocates to help process DACA applications at community workshops.

It was a hopeful time.

On election night, I remembered those young women-brave, eager, ambitious and every bit as American as my own foreign-born daughter. I thought of them again as I sat with Lola and thought of how to assuage her childish fear.

“No, we are not in danger,” I said and quickly moved onto another subject.

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