Dreamers Persist Against Threat of DACA Termination

By Perla Tolentino

Dreamers and DACA supporters march in an event organized by Antonio Alarcon to protest against the elimination decree. Photo courtesy of Lidiya Kan.

Trump’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, has yet to reach a solution either in Congress or the nation’s courts. On Oct. 17, according to the AP, the Justice Department informed the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that if the court does not rule on the case by Oct. 31, it will request that the Supreme Court do so. DACA’s termination would result in the loss of jobs, education, and life plans for more than 800,000 dreamers whom the program guarantees the same rights as naturally born U.S. citizens. While their futures hang in the balance, CUNY Dreamers are redoubling their commitment to their goals and communities. 

“I feel extremely safe at Lehman and in NYC in general. I have been living here for four years and always feel comfortable talking about my status in class,” a female Lehman DACA recipient told the Meridian on the condition of anonymity. The student, an English and History double major, praised Lehman as “a great sanctuary school where I can be myself and not be scared about my status.” 

She also believes that Lehman should advocate more on behalf of DACA students, and offer them more opportunities such as financial aid, scholarships and funding for master’s or Ph.D.  programs. “We are hard-working Americans who know no other home but this one,” she said. “I really want DACA to get legalized, that will ensure that me, my sister and our friends can work, live and study without fear of deportation.” 

“DACA provides students with federal grants. It gives them a nation they can feel a part of,” said Lehman professor, John Paul Gonzalez, from the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies. “Most dreamers who graduate obtain degrees in challenging majors such as medicine and social work.” Describing DACA as one of the best opportunities ever created, he accused Trump of “playing political games. His whole plan is an act of racism.” 

According to data released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the program has seen the number of applicants drop by nearly half. Numbers from the fiscal year of 2018 show a total of 286,247 applicants, which is only 51.78 percent of last year’s total. One reason may be that according to the USCIS website, after Trump’s order to halt the program, only renewals would be able to remain in the U.S. 

“DACA provides students with federal grants. It gives them a nation they can feel a part of.”  

- Lehman Latin American and Latino Studies professor, John Paul Gonzalez

However, DACA recipients have won many victories, including that of 24-year-old activist and dreamer Antonio Alarcon. Alarcon has been in several documentaries and his work inspires many dreamers and immigrants to continue to fight with hope and dignity. Besides joining the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at Lehman from 2016 until 2018, Alarcon has been working to help immigrants since the age 14 as part of a non-profit organization called Make the Road. 

“I worked for ten years organizing events and coordinating funds to help immigrants,” Alarcon told the Meridian. “We helped them with college applications and lawyer representation for their immigration cases.” He also pointed out that Trump’s new Oct. 31 deadline would move the case to the jurisdiction of a more conservative Supreme Court. “Brett Kavanaugh, who is an anti-immigration conservative figure is now to decide for DACA as the new judge,” he said. 

Dreamers on DC, spreading a message of hope after Trump’s order to end DACA was made official. The protest was one of the many events organized by Antonio Alarcon as part of his community work to help immigrants fight for their rights and to defend the program. Photo courtesy of Ricardo Acá.

Meanwhile, Lehman seeks to keep enrolled DACA recipients informed about new updates and their possible benefits through weekly conferences held every Friday to aid dreamers, and address immigration barriers. Lehman also hosted a Constitution Day Event to educate students on laws used to fight for DACA on Sept. 18, 2018 at the Lovinger Theatre.

“Thanks God I’m in college,” said another DACA recipient and Lehman student who also requested anonymity, “but I have so many friends and family members who can’t go to college because we don’t get enough support.” The student, a 21-year-old Spanish major, also suggested other ways Lehman can support Dreamers. 

“Mostly everyone at Lehman is open-minded and I love that, but I think there are also people who might not want us dreamers here. Lehman should bring the Dream Team back permanently, and provide scholarships for us, since they are very hard to find in other places. DACA shouldn’t be the only thing we have. It is amazing to have it, but what about everyone else who doesn’t qualify and has big dreams?”