By Joshua Burciaga
In light of the uncertain climate aimed at recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, members of the Riverside community stepped out on Sept. 5 to support their community.
Local leaders and organizers sought to eliminate the idea that the community would stay silent and passive as the threat of deportation looms over the minds and attitudes of some of Riverside’s inhabitants. The participants and organizers spoke words of comfort and optimism in a period of deep uncertainty.
Rally participants marched across downtown to city hall with signs, shouting phrases such as “Immigrant Power” and “ICE out of IE,” accompanied by a roaring chorus of protesters chanting, “Up! Up! With Liberation! Down! Down! With Deportation!”
The church’s Rev. Benita Ramsey of the First Congregational Church of Riverside works closely with DACA recipients and gives a firsthand account of the situation.
“They are definitely fearful and intimidated by this,” she said. “They have a lot of concern over this. There is absolutely no sound reason for this and all this does is divide families who need and depend on each other for support.”
Ramsey said that they will continue to offer sanctuary and services to those affected and refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The rally was meant to serve as a reminder to those in the community that there are numerous organizations willing to advocate and assist DACA recipients. Saira Murillo, a speaker at the event and proponent for the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective, helps to inform immigrants about the resources available to them and helps them connect to the services that they provide.
“One of the most common concerns other than deportation are monetary issues,” Murillo said. “There are families who struggle to pay the fees associated with applying for a new driver’s license or work permit.”
Murillo reiterates that the most effective means of helping DACA recipients is to participate, show up, inform, advocate and march on their behalf. Lending your voice, ears and free time appears to be the most efficient means of providing relief for DACA beneficiaries.
“The most common fear me and my family have is the fear of deportation,” Gudino-Flores said. “Not only that, there’s the possibility I could lose my job and health insurance once my DACA expires.”
There are proponents who assert that DACA recipients take advantage of valuable resources and don’t contribute to the country.
Karen Gudino-Flores couldn’t disagree more.
“Not only do I have to pay my fair share of taxes, but I had to pay $600 extra for taxes last year and work three jobs in order to pay my DACA fees as well as other bills you have to pay to live a normal life.”
Gudino-Flores, a DACA recipient enrolled in the Riverside Community College District, is currently employed at at a non-profit hospital and works closely with cancer patients, offering services and assistance to those in need. In a field that never has enough help, revoking her work permit would be detrimental.
With her DACA status set to expire in Oct. 2018, Gudino-Flores remains optimistic.
“I feel more than confident with the services and aid that my school and community offers to me,” she said, “I’m also proud of the members of the community that helped host and participate in the event, it really does give me hope about the future. I didn’t really expect there was going to be this much support.”
Immigration attorney Rosa Elena Sahagun held a community forum to help clarify the situation She wasted no time disclosing the obstacles preventing DACA recipients from obtaining basic citizenship. Immigration services will no longer accept new DACA applicants.
“We will adjudicate initial requests for DACA accepted by Sept. 5, 2017 or before,” Sahagun said in a statement, “Immigration (USCIS) will only adjudicate DACA renewal requests received by Oct. 5, 2017, from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018.”
If an applicant’s DACA expired before Sept. 4 or after March 6, 2018, then they are unable to renew their DACA application; however, even if they are eligible for a renewal, that still leaves them with less than a month (Oct. 5) to come up with the $495 filing fee needed to renew the application.
The DACA program allows children whose parents crossed the border to gain access to work permits, a social security number, which allows them to obtain health insurance and driver’s licenses, and many other benefits reserved for native born Americans; nonetheless, renewing one’s DACA still comes at a risk.
Sahagun explains that Congress has been granted a six month gap to reach a unilateral decision regarding the DACA program.
“If there is that gap, congress has an opportunity to act and protect those students, should it chose to do so, but at the end of the day, there is nothing concrete for the future of these young people,” Sahagun said in a separate interview with CBS Local News.
Sahagun encourages DACA recipients to wait it out until more information gets released from the White House to the public, because an eligible candidate could file to renew his DACA today, only to have the DACA program itself completely dismantled by the government a day later.
Sahagun emphasizes the importance of DACA recipients demand for their citizenship, stating that residency and citizenship are not the same.
She encourages those with a voice to stand up and advocate for the people whose voices have been silenced. Nonetheless, she still encourages DACA recipients to keep urging their community and local government to fight for their rights, because with citizenship comes voting rights and the power to vote will give DACA recipients and immigrants as a whole the power to elect new leaders who will support and enforce laws that best represent them and their interests.
DACA recipients are facing an intimidating future, but local organizers and concerned citizens will continue to peacefully assemble as they did Sept. 5, marching and advocating for a small minority behind a big cause.