Conservative ideal threatens entry, fuels deportations

Uncertainty fills lives of immigrant families

By Roxana Amparo, Editor-in-Chief

For many undocumented people living in the United States, the election of Republican candidate Donald Trump as president has left them questioning what will happen to them and their families come January when he takes office.

Throughout Trump’s campaign, he said he plans to enforce immigration laws including securing the border by building a wall, ending sanctuary cities, (cities with policies to protect their undocumented immigrant populations) sending “criminals” and “rapists” home and keeping out immigrants and refugees in an attempt to “Make America Great Again.”

“It’s hard to believe he won,” psychology major Ivan Rochea said. “The first thing that came to mind is that many people are going to get deported. What is going to happen now? There are a lot of doors that are going to close.”

Rochea came to the U.S. at the age of 9 in 2012 from Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico.

As an undocumented student who qualifies for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, as well as for the Board of Governors Fee Waiver to pay his community college tuition here at Contra Costa College, he said he is worried.

“The Dream Act is helping me continue my education,” Rochea said.

In addition to allowing undocumented students to pay an in-state tuition fee of $46, the Dream Act provides a path to citizenship for qualifying students. Trump has threatened to repeal the Dream Act.

Another program that is in danger of ending under the leadership of Trump is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a piece of legislation that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.

DACA protects undocumented immigrants from deportation, but with Trump as president, there is no assurance that millions of undocumented people will continue to have a chance at a path to citizenship.

On Thursday, representatives from OneJustice, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, visited CCC’s Student Lounge to offer guidance to undocumented families about DACA.

OneJustice staff attorney and Program Director Juan Ortiz said, “If he decides he is going to end DACA, what happens? We don’t know if he is going to honor it and (allow) students to finish the two years deportation exemption.”

OneJustice Community Relations Associate Claudia Pepe said their role is to try to bridge legal gaps between different communities.

They visited CCC to inform families about the resources available. Ortiz was giving legal advice to families who have yet to apply for DACA.

One of the fears undocumented people, who have yet to apply for DACA, have is having their information turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

For those who are thinking about renewing it, Ortiz said there isn’t a lot of risk, but applicants must meet with an attorney for clarity on their individual cases.

But for first-time DACA applicants, the risk is higher.

Ortiz said he does think DACA is ending and when applicants fill out the application with their address, the information may not be as safe.

“We don’t know what this new president is doing. He wants to deport people who are undocumented,” Ortiz said. “When making a decision, they have to think about their families.”

Leonardo Sanchez is an undocumented high school student at Sylvester Greenwood Academy in Richmond.  

He and his mom, Maricel Reyes, came to CCC to get information about DACA from Ortiz.

Sanchez said talking to Ortiz made him feel better about his decision whether to apply for DACA or not.

“He told us what we can do and how to use this information as an advantage,” he said.

“I’m still trying to process everything. It’s still a lot to take in. I would advise people to stay calm, and have a clear mindset because this is just the beginning of it all.”

With Trump as president of the U.S., Reyes said the risk for undocumented people has increased.

“It’s frustrating to not know what is going to happen with undocumented students,” Reyes said.

“But I have always said, whoever is going to be here (in the U.S.), is going to be here,” she said.

Reyes said she came from Mexico, Tlaxcala in 2005 and has lived in San Pablo ever since.

She said people should not show fear and continue to keep a clean record and show that immigrants are hard working people regardless of what anyone thinks.

Ortiz said if immigration officers were to go to the homes of undocumented people, requesting to see them, they don’t have to open the door or let them in unless they have a court order.

“You are protected by your home. But if you let them in, that is where you lose. Many people cooperate because they feel it is going to go much better. But it isn’t,” he said.

Civil engineering major and Richmond resident Javier Ochoa said people have to research and educate themselves on their rights and on what to do if ICE ever comes to their homes.

“Do not open the door,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa said even though he voted, he believes he could have done something better to help mobilize the community and get more people to the polls.

“It’s crazy. It’s incredible how people rely on others to vote but they don’t vote,” he said.

“Hopefully Trump does something really bad so we can get rid of him.”

Rochea said he remembers hearing people say immigrants come to this country to take jobs away from deserving Americans and that immigrants are criminals.

“People don’t come just to take jobs. People look for opportunities that others don’t take, despite not having papers,” Rochea said.

“I couldn’t believe it. It feels like a nightmare. It seems like we are going to live what people used to live back in the day when slavery was around.”

CCC English as a second language professor Evan De Gennaro said, “Make no mistake, under Obama more workers were deported than any other time in U.S. history, as well as expanding war, drones and increasing the wealth divide. He was and still is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as I believe Hillary Clinton would have been as well. Trump is a straight up racist, sexist wolf, no disguise.”

De Gennaro said immigration policy is about creating fearful desperate workers.

“They threaten deportation to shut people up and keep wages low or at zero. Workers of all shades, genders, etcetera need to get organized or we’ll be easily defeated every time. (If) my students disappear, I disappear.”

Under Obama’s administration, between 2009 and 2015, more than 2.5 million undocumented people were deported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The record numbers of deportees earned Obama the moniker of deporter-in-chief during his presidential term.

Trump said he plans to deport two to three million undocumented immigrants.

Ochoa said he takes everything that has been happening personally.

“They (undocumented students) are in school because of DACA, and I am sad and afraid he wants to take it away.”

Ochoa said his immediate family has prepared for the worst to come upon Trump’s arrival at the White House.

“When my dad went to send money to my mom, (who is in Mexico, Michoacán), there was a big line of other Latinos. People want to prepare for the worst, so some are even sending money to their families in Mexico just in case something happens to them,” he said.

Ochoa said, “I feel like I don’t belong here. I feel the silence in my house, at school. What the fuck happened?”

Rochea said many people are just going to give up.

They are going to think it’s over and they shouldn’t go to school.

“There is hope. If we get together and fight for what is right.”

“I think they should continue, because not coming to college is saying you know what, Trump, you are right. This is what we came for and we want to make a difference.”

Rochea said, “If people are thinking about giving up, I want to tell them to fight and have hope either way, even if he is going to send us to Mexico.”

De Genarro said, “As for the student thinking of dropping out, never drop out.

“Keep on grabbing education wherever and whenever you can, but link up with workers of all shades, genders, orientations and learn how to fight back.

“It sounds cheesy, but my little bro used to watch ‘Power Rangers’ all the time; why did they always wait to link up and kick ass? They always won when they did.

“As long as we stay distracted and separated by our crumbs, titles and identity groupings, we’ll stay in a world like we have now. That’s the real choice we have every day, not the distraction we have every four years.”

Financial aid assistant Patricia Herrera said it is important for undocumented students at CCC who qualify for the Dream Act application (BOG Fee Waiver and the Cal Grant) to know that the funds come from the state of California and not the federal government.

She said she encourages any student who may be eligible to fill out a financial aid application for 2016-17 and 2017-18 if they have not done so yet.

HSI STEM Manager Mayra Padilla said, “We have to stay peaceful and loving for one another. Fighting hate is not going to solve anything. We need a level of compassion.” 

She said, as a community, everyone should stand for justice and with anyone who has been oppressed.