Members of the PCC community are fearful of being abducted from our collective home. These classmates who we sit next to, friends who we laugh with and staff members who we look to for help, are being threatened by a force that has the power to stalk, imprison, and exile. That force is the federal government under the Trump administration, a body which has variously proven it has no moral qualms about separating families.
Undocumented students at PCC face uncertain futures simply because they were born in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Their parents dreamed of a better life for them, and they have built futures based on dreams tied to this country and this community. Now, those dreams are under threat.
While undocumented students know their lives are at risk, many of their fellow students seem ignorant or unconcerned with the suffering taking place around them. Our undocumented classmates are right to ask why more of their fellow students are not showing up through clubs, actions, and other forms of support, for them.
For some of these undocumented Lancers, Monday, February 26th brought a temporary sense of relief. As the New York Times reports, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the Trump administration’s appeal on whether the administration could immediately put an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This Obama-era program shields around 700,000 immigrants brought here at a young age from deportation.
This latest development in the DACA saga puts the ball back into the court of the burning trash heap that is otherwise known as the U.S. Congress, where attempts to draft a bipartisan immigration bill that protects DACA recipients without conceding too much to Trump and the Republicans have repeatedly failed because right-wing politicians sense an opportunity to score border legislation that would have a difficult time passing at any other time. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has handled this incredibly important and sensitive topic as they have most of the other things that have come across the president’s desk: with equal parts callous disregard for human suffering and determination to further the selfish interests of Trump. The president feels he must follow through on ridiculously broad campaign promises to ‘build a wall’ to appease his base, and he sees DACA recipients’ situation as the vehicle through which to bulldoze wall-related legislation in partnership with the Republicans.
So, the fate of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants remains up in the air as the expiration date of the program, March 5th, looms increasingly near. After that point, DACA recipients would start losing their status and be subject to deportation.
For many DACA recipients, or DREAMers, the last few months have been a slow motion nightmare, but they’ve also been a wake-up call.
“Looking back, I’m mad at myself,” says Jesica Garcia-Garcia, a DACA recipient. She is second year PCC student and treasurer of United Without Boundaries, a PCC club dedicated to empowering undocumented students. “We were all thinking, we have DACA, so we’re good. But we kind of stopped thinking about our family members, our parents, and all the people who weren’t able to apply for DACA. We should have been fighting for something more permanent, that included many more people, all along.”
Garcia-Garcia is part of a rising tide of undocumented activists who have been driven into political advocacy around immigrants’ rights since the Trump regime turned their worlds upside down. Their activism reflects a bravery and selflessness that few Americans today can claim. They are quite literally risking it all: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Trump administration has been targeting undocumented activists around the country after those activists have spoken out openly in the press. One DREAMer named Daniela Vargas was arrested by ICE shortly after sharing her story at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi. Other well known activists targeted by ICE include Ravi Ragbir, Ingrid Latorre and her husband Eliseo Jurado, Maru Mora Villalpando, and Jean Montrevil, who was, sadly, deported to Haiti in late January of this year.
Garcia-Garcia has been encouraged by the actions taken by PCC. The letter sent out by the Superintendent President to PCC students following the Trump administration’s announcement to end DACA is what actually first encouraged Garcia-Garcia to seek out other students involved in immigration activism on campus. That is what led her to United Without Boundaries. However, Garcia-Garcia noted that many undocumented students are too scared right now to come forward and speak out, and rightfully so, given the draconian lengths that ICE and the Trump administration are willing to go to to shut down dissent. They also never know how they will be treated.
That is why it is so important that students with permanent citizenship status in this country step up to the plate and become active on behalf of their undocumented classmates and neighbors. But right now, Garcia-Garcia and other undocumented activists don’t see enough enthusiasm from students around them.
“Well, I just don’t see much interest from other students,” stated Garcia-Garcia. “It’s frustrating for me personally, because I’m very active and I like to stay on top of stuff. But a club doesn’t work if there are no students to work with. I encourage people to come to our club, learn what we’re about, and hear our struggles, because our story is very important in shaping how people feel about us. It’s open to everyone, it’s not just for undocumented students but also allies, because we need our allies. We need our allies to support us and to stand up for us when we can’t stand up for ourselves.”
The government will only listen to the demands by immigrants to protect DREAMers and move forward on immigration reform if large groups of citizens follow the lead of undocumented activists to organize and apply pressure on every level of government. Even if Congress does pass some form of legislation to protect DREAMers from deportation and lay out a path for them toward citizenship, many DACA recipients would not be satisfied. Their fight is now a fight for the protection of all undocumented people. And as neighbors and friends who have contributed so much to our community as well as to the culture and history of this region, they deserve our full attention and support.