800,000 immigrants at risk after Trump threatens DACA


Tina Dang

Students and adults march from Seattle Central College to Seattle City Hall on Sept. 28 to show their solidarity with DACA recipients and other students who are undocumented immigrants.

Andrew Cornel and Jordan O'Neal

When President Donald Trump announced he was dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act, it sent waves of panic through the undocumented immigrant community. The program, which was instituted by former President Barack Obama, is scheduled to end in four months. In preparation, agencies that support undocumented immigrants held events around the area to teach educators how they can help.

Teachers from around the Seattle School District packed into Cleveland’s auditorium on Sept. 18, for a DACA forum. The event was hosted by The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Washington Dream Coalition, and Colectiva Legal del Pueblo as a way to have leaders share with educators how to know what’s happening in their communities and making sure all schools have the tools to support immigrant students.

Cleveland alumni Alejandra Perez, one of the event organizers and an undocumented immigrant, set up the event because she believes that education is a tool that can “lead to freedom” and to have teachers know the correct knowledge to share with students and families.

Tina Dang
Betty Mulla, a student at Rainier Beach High School speaks with Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess. Mulla was one of the organizers of the Sept. 28 walkout.

Perez is not shy about her immigration status and made it known during her keynote speech at the 2016 graduation ceremony.

“When you’re out about being undocumented, you have a lot of community support,” Perez said.

DACA was established in 2012 and offers protection from deportation to approximately 800,000 children of illegal immigrants – also known as “dreamers.” This is bad news for many who are protected by the program and for immigrants who lack protection from deportation.

According to America Murguia, one of the helpers at the forum, to qualify for DACA protection, immigrants would have had to enter the U.S. before Sept. 7, 2007, be under the age of 16 and provide documentation like ID cards from elementary and middle school. Murguia works for the Latino Community Fund, a group that supports cultural and community based non-profit organizations.

During the forum, students from around the region shared their stories of being undocumented in the public school system and the effect of possibly losing their DACA protection.

“It is a loss for American citizens and the government because undocumented families still pay taxes and buy things from the store and still work,” said Zawadi Chege, a senior at Stadium High School in Tacoma. “So initially you’re sending people away that contribute to society … you’re losing money and they’re losing their families and what they think of as home for them.”

Perez said she wasn’t too concerned about being deported because of the connections she’s built in the community.

“If something happens to me, then I have community support and my community would be there to help me out,” she said.

Cleveland educators want to support the immigrant families and the community. The school has added a special “Resources” page on its website for undocumented students. The page includes links to financial support systems as well as documents that inform about the rights you have if you are stopped by the police.

Many Cleveland staff members attended the DACA forum to gather tools and resources. SOED Vice Principal Ray Garcia Morales said CHS is committed to standing with undocumented students by “providing a place without any barriers.”

Garcia Morales also encouraged those in the Cleveland community who would like to help to stay informed. This means knowing how to ask questions.

“What I mean by asking questions is it is not okay to ask somebody if they’re undocumented,” said Garcia Morales.

If you or a loved one is affected by the DACA act repeal, you can get support by contacting the National Immigration Law Center, the Immigrant Defense Project, and the Youth Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. In addition, the Washington Dream Coalition can help by giving you numbers to call.

“There are also places that can help [immigrants] fill out DACA renewal,” said Chege.

Go to the http://fanwa.org/support-daca-and-dreamers/ to find out more about DACA.