DACA reversal is blow to local immigrant youth, but also a call to activism

By Gary Walker

Loyola Marymount University students marched in support of DACA peers
Photo courtesy of Loyola Marymount University

Carlos Arreola wasn’t surprised to hear the Trump administration will rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, President Obama’s 2012 executive order shielding immigrant youth brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.

“This was inevitable. I knew this was going to come,” said Arreola, a constituent services administrator for L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district includes Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey.

A Cal State L.A. student brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was three years old, Arreola is one of nearly 800,000 young adults nationwide — 223,000 of them in California — who had been granted deportation relief and the right to work under DACA.

He has at least two relatives also impacted by DACA’s impending repeal following a six-month grace period, during which Trump has tasked Congress with developing new immigration policies.

“I woke up to a lot of phone calls that day. People are afraid, because now there’s uncertainty,” Arreola said.

But he is determined to stay hopeful.

“I work for someone who supports me as a person and who believes in me, so I’m not going to cower and hide,” he said. That sentiment also rings true for Salma Morales, a DACA recipient who attends Santa Monica College. She believes targeting DACA is a cynical nod to the embattled president’s anti-immigration supporters.

“This is a big motivator for me. This is criminalizing us, and that’s wrong. We’re definitely going to fight this,” pledged Morales, 19, who last week helped organize a march against the repeal of DACA from SMC to Santa Monica City Hall.

On Sept. 6, Loyola Marymount University students also held a rally on campus in support of the school’s DACA students.

Venice High School student Mireya Curiel was in class when she heard about the end of DACA, a decision that will directly impact her cousins.

“The government has all the information of these undocumented people, and some might think they’re going to use it against them,” said Curiel, president of Venice High’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx a de Aztlán (MEChA) Club.

In order to qualify for DACA protections, applicants had to prove a lack of felony convictions and either a high school diploma, current school enrollment or enlistment in the U.S. armed services.

“These are standards that most American parents cannot hold their own children to,” asserted Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District Board of Education member Oscar de la Torre, also executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center. “The most vulnerable of immigrant youth are being bartered for political gain.”

Morales said portrayals of DACA recipients as a burden to society run counter to the truth.

“I think the administration knows what kind of people we are because of the rules that we have to follow,” she said.

“So when he says it’s about deporting people who don’t work or are criminals, he knows that’s not us.”