by Emily Ostrowski
In September of this year the Trump Administration announced it would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, otherwise known as DACA. This program, enacted five years earlier by President Obama, protected 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. Now that DACA has been rescinded the future of these young adults, often referred to as Dreamers, hangs in the balance, with the hope that Congress can adopt a solution to find Dreamers a permanent path towards citizenship before March of 2018 when DACA officially expires.
YWCA Clark County has long supported the rights of Dreamers and we were dismayed and angered that it had been rescinded. In a statement released shortly after the announcement, YWCA USA Interim CEO Casey Harden wrote “At YWCA, we see this for what it is: racial profiling, xenophobia, and bad public policy. We must stand by young women of color and ensure that they have access to every opportunity by protecting DACA and pursuing a permanent solution through the DREAM Act.”
In the months since the announcement YWCA Clark County has worked to stay up-to-date with new developments on DACA and ways to help Dreamers. We also look to our strong community partners who serve the Latinx population, such as the Southwest Washington LULAC Council, for information and guidance on how to help to DACA recipients.
We spoke with Diana Perez, Washington State Director of LULAC, about her reaction to the repeal of DACA, and about how we as a community can encourage Congress to act to protect Dreamers.
Perez was initially shocked by the decision to end DACA. “I felt disbelief. Plain disbelief and immediate concern over what was going to replace DACA. When there was no clear answer, my reaction turned to anger and determination”, said Perez. “I knew I could not sit and stew, I needed to take action to provide whatever support I could to the community in terms of understanding, mobilization, and pressuring our representatives to vote for passing a clean Dream Act.”
Out of the 800,000 DACA recipients, 18,000 currently reside in Washington State. In Washington State’s 3rd Congressional District (which includes Clark County and is represented by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler) there are currently 700 DACA recipients, and 1,500 who were considered DACA eligible. This is notable not only because of the harm rescinding DACA causes its recipients, but also the communities in which they reside. It is estimated that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) loss of removing DACA workers in Washington’s 3rd District alone would amount to $43,800,000.
Another particular concern is how rescinding DACA makes it even more difficult for undocumented victims of domestic violence to reach out for help.
“Even without DACA it is difficult for victims of domestic violence to reach out, especially if there are children involved, said Perez. “The fear of being deported and separated from your child takes over everything, and abusers gain so much more power and control. It’s so depressing to even think about. Rescinding DACA helps perpetuate the cycle of domestic violence.”
Caroline Bartlett, Director of SafeChoice at YWCA Clark County, agrees with this assessment. “Immediately following the announcement that the Trump Administration would be ending DACA, we started to see the negative effects on the survivors we serve”, said Bartlett. “We began to hear stories of increased fear in reporting domestic violence and filing domestic violence protection orders.”
Bartlett notes that a common tactic some abusive individuals use to maintain control over their partner is to deny access to citizenship, or to use their immigrant status against them. This is why pathways to citizenship like DACA are so essential for survivors because it breaks down barriers to accessing help when domestic violence is present.
Perez also worries that the divisiveness and chaos that seems emblematic of our current political climate will make it more challenging to find a permanent solution to replace DACA. “Under this current administration I am not confident at all,” said Perez. “What’s most frustrating is that there were opportunities to avoid being in the current situation had there been support for a bipartisan effort to pass the DREAM Act years ago.”
That said, Perez and the Southwest Washington LULAC Council are focusing on galvanising local efforts to encourage officials to support Dreamers and to help keep those affected, as well as those who want to help, up-to-date on the most current information.
“At the local level we have to be united with others to better inform our social and education providers on the reality and complexities of immigration.” said Perez. “No one is equipped to address and provide immigration related information and resources on a continual basis.” She goes on to say immigration relations specialists are needed at the city, county, and school district levels to educate providers and counselors on how to better navigate these issues and find resources for those in need. As of now the bulk of this work is mainly being done by volunteers which Perez notes is not sustainable.
Perez also stresses the importance of empowering young people to speak up and create safe spaces where dialogue is possible, such as the student diversity groups at WSU Vancouver. “We’ve had a few students go and talk to Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler about supporting Dreamers and DACA,” said Perez.
Southwest LULAC has also teamed up with several other local organizations to promote awareness, including YWCA Clark County this September when we hosted Postcards with Purpose where volunteers wrote and hand-delivered over 700 postcards to Congresswoman Herrera Beutler. The work will continue until Congress acts to protect Dreamers, with several upcoming events scheduled, including a community forum in late January where Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has been asked to speak.
YWCA Clark County will continue to join Southwest LULAC in supporting all DACA recipients, and fighting for a permanent protections for Dreamers. Please continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest developments, and take a look at the resources listed below to learn how you can #DefendDREAMers
To contact Representative Herrera Beutler visit https://herrerabeutler.house.gov/contact/ or tweet her @HerreraBeutler using the hashtags #DefendDREAMers, #DefendDACA, #HereToStay
Community leaders and representatives supporting DACA and Dreamers:
State Representative Monica Stonier
Mayor Tim Leavitt
Chief of Police James McElvain
Assistant Chief Chris Sutter
Vancouver Schools Superintendent Stephen Webb
Former Evergreen Schools Superintendent John Deeder
Director of Student Diversity and Outreach at WSU Vancouver Anthony Kelly
Dr. Chato Hazelbaker of Clark College
Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins
Dena Horton of Senator Cantwell’s Office
Dave Hodges of Senator Patty Murray’s Office
Additional Local/National Partners and Resources
United We Dream
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Healthy Living Collaborative
Latino Community Resource Group
Clark County Latino Youth Conference
Vancouver One America
Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs