President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, inspired protests throughout the Monterey Bay Area Tuesday. It also raised fears among some local DACA recipients who crossed the border illegally as children.
At Hartnell Community College in Salinas, nearly 900 students are DREAMers (students who qualify for DACA). The Mi Casa Center is a safe place on campus where they can gather.
“It has been a difficult time for the Mi Casa staff,” says Bronwyn Moreno, who runs the center.
“We feel a great responsibility to be leaders within the Hartnell College community and make sure that people have current information and that students are continuing to feel comfortable attending school.”
So she started making big, bright posters to hang around campus to remind undocumented students that they are welcome.
“This morning, some came in quite fearful, crying,” says Moreno.
But Adriana Gonzalez is keeping her chin up. She's a student leader at Mi Casa.
"I don’t want to show a weak front to anyone who is perhaps looking for some support. But ultimately, I am human, and I am being affected by this," Gonzalez says.
Gonzales came to the United States from Mexico when she was just seven years old. She's enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That defers deportation and allows her to study, work and get a driver’s license.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has stopped accepting new applications to DACA. Current enrollees have one month to apply for a two-year renewal. Then, the program will officially end on March 5. It gives Congress 6 months to figure out a new plan for DREAMers.
People are already pushing them to accomplish that. On Tuesday evening, a group of about 100 people gathered along Del Monte Avenue in Monterey to protest the end of DACA. Parallel protests were also held in Santa Cruz and Salinas.
As they chanted, drivers passing by honked their horns. Most of the demonstrators held colorful signs. Deb Clifford’s sign read, “Build a Path to Citizenship, Not a Wall.”
"We feel like it’s inhumane; it’s a direct attack on people who are living peacefully and safely. And students have been encouraged to step out of the shadows and be identified and then their dreams have been crushed today. And now it’s over in Congress’s lap," Clifford says.
“This decision by the Trump Administration is one that people are terming, and rightfully so, as cruel and compassionless, and I agree with that. But at this point let’s try to move forward and let’s try to fix this situation,” says Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley).
He says he’s hopeful Congress will pass a version of The Dream Act. It makes the DACA protections permanent, and for some, it creates a pathway for citizenship.
Next week, Congressman Panetta will visit Hartnell Community College to talk with the school’s DREAMers.
"They are a part of this community. They might have come here as foreigners, but they were raised as and they are Americans," says Panetta.
DREAMer Adriana Gonzalez is looking forward to that. She says she’s confident Congress will fix this.
"I think bigger things are going to happen. The best is yet to come for us. I don’t believe all hope is lost. There’s a lot of people in the government who are for helping us. You know they want to be there for us. They’re going to do everything in their power to help us, I know," says Gonzalez.
And while she says living in limbo for the next six months won’t be easy, she’s going to try to stay positive.