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5C DACA Students Encourage Activism, Immigration Rights

Pomona students gather to call local representatives in an effort to pass the DREAM Act on Feb. 7. (Luke Meares • The Student Life)

In recent weeks, politicians have repeatedly tried and failed to advance a bipartisan immigration deal protecting immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — often referred to as Dreamers — leaving 5C DACA recipients worried about what their futures may hold.

Uncertainty about their future legal status has thrown the lives of Dreamers at the 5Cs into question. Several spoke to TSL for this article, but requested to be identified by their first names only to protect their identities.

For Joey, President Donald Trump’s offer to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for funding for a border wall was not comforting.

“A wall means vulnerable communities on the border, in danger of being deported, living in fear,” he said.

Joey also worries about his parents’ fates under an immigration deal.

“If Congress were to choose to give me citizenship while my parents live in domestic terror, I would not accept it,” he said.

Joey also worries that the measures Congress and Trump have been considering are just stopgap fixes.

The proposed and passed solutions have been “lots of ‘let’s do this for now,’ but tighten up on immigration for later. It’s a bunch of shortsighted attempts to address immigration, which puts a lot of communities at risk,” he said.

In the short run, with a Republican-controlled Congress and Trump in the White House, the outlook seems grim to many in the undocumented community, but undocumented students are not confident that things will change even with a political shift.

“Even if we reached a Democrat majority in Congress, I still don’t have faith in it alone,” Luis said. “The whole reason DACA was implemented was because of grassroots efforts. Obama didn’t pass DACA out of the kindness of his heart,” he said.

According to Luis, strong activism and support for undocumented immigrants is the only thing that will have an impact on politicians.

“We need support on the ground from undocumented people and their allies,” Luis said.

Some 5C students are attempting to follow this advice; several organized an event at Pomona College Wednesday to call state representatives and advocate for a DACA bill.

Likewise, Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr has joined the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration — a national group of college and university presidents and chancellors — to provide support to the undocumented community.

“For years, Pomona College has welcomed and supported undocumented and DACA students,” Starr said in a press release on Pomona’s website. “We are proud to join the Presidents’ Alliance, with the goal of working together to bring positive and lasting legislative solutions for immigrant and DACA students as well as for international students and scholars.”

Former Pomona President David Oxtoby also authored a letter in support of DACA in November 2016, which has now been co-signed by 703 other university presidents. Additionally, Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum is currently on sabbatical in Washington, D.C., advocating for immigration reform.

DACA students emphasized the importance of legislation to protect them and other undocumented immigrants by recounting the hardships and difficulties that they and their families face.

“It’s difficult for immigrants to receive health care access. There’s a fear and uncertainty about going to the hospital, with horror stories of people being deported from there. My mother would rather risk her health than her ability to stay in the nation,” María said.

Joey added that undocumented immigrants also face legal and financial challenges.

“We pay taxes yet we don’t see the representation,” he said. He said not being able to contribute to the economy like documented immigrants “was like a kick in the face; it was like I wasn’t here.”

For many undocumented immigrants, fear of deportation is constant.

“Even if I feel safe [at] Pomona, I still have to worry about my parents in Arizona. I can exist a little better here, but it’s still not a very good thing because they’re not safe,” Felipe said.

The generally supportive attitude toward undocumented immigrants in Claremont and California in general influenced some DACA students’ decisions to come to Pomona.

“One of the reasons I decided to come to Pomona was that so my parents could come to my graduation,” María said. “My parents had never wanted to leave the state because of fear.”

Constant stressors have had a profound effect on undocumented immigrants throughout the nation, she said.

“My parents have internalized the sense that, ‘we’re not worthy to be here.’ Yet, they are ones who made me who I am,” María said.

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