This is how Philadelphia's dreamers celebrated the fifth anniversary of DACA
Several beneficiary 'dreamers' met Tuesday at the city hall to share their experiences in the deferred action program for arrivals during childhood.
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Five years ago, on August 15, 2012, thousands of immigrant youth filled applications in the country's Department of Homeland Security. The forms filled out that day were the first of a wave of kids who saw how years of struggle paid off: the entry into force of the Deferred Action Consideration for Children's Arrivals program, or DACA.
On Tuesday, more than 50 dreamers gathered in one of those dimly lit rooms of the city hall to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the implementation of the program and to reflect on the challenges facing the program that has benefited just over 5,900 young people in Pennsylvania.
One of the participants was Prudence Powell, who emigrated from Jamaica in 2004 when she was barely 12 years old. Prudence grew up in fear, as an undocumented American, until 2014 when she was welcomed by the program. "DACA opened up a lot of possibilities that I did not have before. Now I help my family, my mom and my grandmother who are still on the island, "she recalled enthusiastically.
In the same vein, each of the participants shared their experiences. One of them was Olivia Vazquez, community organizer of the organization Juntos. Olivia is a member of one of those families that the system defines as "mixed status". That is, her mother is undocumented, her brother is an American by birth and she is a beneficiary of DACA, representing all the possible ways of living in this country sitting at the same table.
That's why Olivia spends her days working with immigrant communities, educating its members about immigration processes and other rights. For her, the struggle is not over, her work is a way to keep alive the efforts to achieve a migratory reform that will put an end to the nightmare of deportation.
Part of her own nightmare ended, temporarily, three years ago when she joined the program. "My life changed because somehow I do not have to worry about what might happen to me." But her voice betrays a tense calm. Uncertainty comes over this business administrator, a Philadelphia Community College graduate, when she talks about her family. "This tranquility is not complete because we know that DACA did not cover my loved ones," she says.
DACA is a great victory of the social movement, but also a step up the long ladder towards the recognition of the rights of immigrants. Sundrop Carter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition agrees with this premise. "Five years of DACA have been five years of protection for thousands of young people in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately the program does not protect the parents, but that doesn’t mean that it has not been of great benefit for young people who have been able to study, who have obtained employment and have been able to pursue their dreams like any other member of our society, "he says.
Likewise, Érika Almirón of the organization Juntos, assures that it is not time to lower the guard. The hate story in Washington has exacerbated the anti-immigrant sentiment and a lack of control over ICE's police actions, so that it is increasingly urgent to get together to stop the deportation train.
DACA is the result of many years of movement, but we have always asked for something bigger, to protect our people from deportations. Just as we defend DACA, we have to defend those with TPS, and we must tell politicians that it is time to investigate ICE, which has committed many abuses against our community," says Almirón.
A good way to deal with anti-immigrant discourse is education. There is no better way to review national history than to realize the immense social, economic, cultural and even scientific contributions that immigrants have made to the country.
Philadelphia is a living testimony to it, a city whose demographic growth has been falling for several decades until immigrants began to arrive en masse. With their arrival they brought projects, enterprises, businesses and tax payments. In other words: the brought wealth for all.
5,900 young people from Pennsylvania have been benefited by DACA since it was launched. The Department of Homeland Security has renewed the permit about 8,200 times in the state. Source: Department of Homeland Security.
That is why institutional support is fundamental in these times, because in addition to recognizing this contribution, it manages to shield the persecuted communities and create a climate of understanding and solidarity among the communities living in the city.
For its part, the director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, Miriam Enríquez, was present at the meeting of dreamers in the mayor's office. She assured that the city will continue to "maintain its welcoming policies" and that immigrants can be sure that they have a helping hand in the municipal administration.