Undocumented and Unafraid
By Tommy A. Purvis
Workshop reaches out to Home Garden’s vulnerable—and immigrant—residents
A recent series of urgent meetings in the proud working-class community of Home Gardens led to more than 300 young undocumented immigrants forming a line shortly after midnight in front of the local library and community center for a recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) workshop. The highly controversial immigration policy—the result of an Obama Administration executive action with hard fought-for provisions—allows the children of economic refugees in this mostly Mexican enclave to qualify for temporary relief to prevent deportation.
Students were emboldened to step out of the shadows by a large banner that read “Undocumented and Unafraid.”
“I was in tears when I finally told my high school counselor about my legal status,” says Dianey Murrillo, 19, a logistics volunteer for the DACA workshop. The Riverside Community College student aims to be a math teacher. She was only 8 years old when her parents left Mexico with her through the port of entry into El Paso. “When I was able to file my application the fear went away. Now, I want to help others ease their fears.”
To qualify for the DACA process, the applicant—as of June 15—must be a student under 30 with no criminal record. The prospect will need to have been living in the United States before the age of 16, have been residing in the country for five consecutive years and graduated from high school or be military veteran in good standing. Fraud in the paperwork that is sent to Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) for processing, along with biometric fingerprints, and the $465 in filing fees, will lead to automatic deportation.
Applicants were told to avoid notarios or immigration consultants that deceive unsuspecting immigrants with the promise of faux legal protection for substantial fees. It was also advised that no one should not go to a police or sheriff’s station for live scan services. The day-long event that also featured community health services and information on college loans was sponsored by the Norte Vista DREAMers, California Partnership, Project: REACH, Child Leader Project and the Immigrant Youth Coalition-Inland Empire.
The entire process is a risky yet worthwhile,proposition for legitimacy for the children of parents who work hard and suffered silently in this mostly forgotten neighborhood tucked between Riverside and Corona, south of the 91 Freeway. The local market and bus stops are the frequent target of immigration raids by federal and local law enforcement that terrorize the citizens. The Pomona Economic Opportunity Center reports the details of 30 immigration raids that targeted low priority undocumented workers in the Inland Empire between December 2008 and June 2009.
Such stings have become common in Home Gardens. In one episode, Border Patrol officials arrested 12 day laborers after chasing them into a Farmer Boys restaurant. The desperate situation is found in countless other neighborhoods spread across the nation that fit the same demographic. The fact that the Obama Administration deported more undocumented workers in his first 18 months in office than Bush did in eight years is well known among those who support humane immigration reform.
“I am a U.S. citizen but I’m still afraid,” says 9-year Home Gardens resident Silverio Martinez. “Deportations have been so swift and forceful they have shocked the community and driven it into seclusion. Parents drop their kids off a block away from school due to the alarm.”
Organizers for DACA clinic chose the library to highlight the 10 percent drop in circulation from last year, and a 41 percent decline within the last five years due to law enforcement action. Jesse Venezuela, congressional staffer from Rep. Joe Baca’s (D-Rialto) district was there to observe and support the effort.
The estimated 1.7 million undocumented students who are impacted in the immigration policy change are the recipients of the most sweeping immigration reform since Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
Before the Rose Garden announcement about Deferred Action by the president there was a burgeoning movement that used direct action at several Obama campaign headquarters in swing states. The tactic was in response to the failure of the more comprehensive DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act to make its way through Congress despite the support of the executive branch.