DREAMers got a sliver of hope this week in the form of a court decision. A federal judge blocked the Trump Administration’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
There are roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children enrolled in DACA. This court decision doesn’t solve the issue though.
The Justice Department says it will fight back, this while President Trump tries to work with Congress on a permanent solution for those 700,000 young people.
That number -- 700,000 -- is nameless and faceless. Daniel Diaz wants to change that. He’s a DACA recipient and founder of the web site FacesofDACA.us. I recently spoke with him about what motivated the website
“This frustration of people on the hill, people in Congress, not knowing who I am, not knowing my face, not knowing my story. And for a lot of these people they feel frustrated that their futures and the things that they worked so hard for up to this point might not be there by the end of this year if nothing happens to us,” said Diaz.
Diaz is a software engineer who lives and works in Salinas. He created the website with the help of friends.
FacesofDACA.us features the pictures and stories of about 30 DACA recipients. Diaz personally interviewed each one.
“And one of the reasons for that was just to make them comfortable and allow them to see that the other person sitting on the other side of the table is feeling the same way and has felt the same way throughout all these years and just give them that comfort for them to be able to share their story with us,” said Diaz.
Krista Almanzan (KA): Will you share your story?
Daniel Diaz (DD): I first found out that I was undocumented in high school when my teacher, he was able to take my Japanese class to an all paid trip to Japan. And I was the only person in that class who wasn’t able to go. So that was a devastating moment for me and it started opening to me the reality of what it meant to be undocumented. As I went on and I tried to apply to colleges, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to receive much help from the government because of my status.
Despite all this, I still applied myself. I still said, ‘you know what? I’m going to take this as far as I can go’. I put myself through community college. I was one of the members of the initial cohort for the CS-in-3 program, the computer science program in collaboration with Hartnell College and CSUMB. And I was able to obtain my computer science degree in just three years. Afterwards, I obtained a job at UBER, working at specifically UBER Eats, the food delivery side business. And I worked there for almost a year and I decided to come back to help with some family matters.
And as you can see from the stories and faces of DACA, they are all doing the same thing. For example, Octavio, he used DACA to start his own business. And with that business he put himself through college. To me that’s beautiful. It represents the resilience of what it means to be an American, of what it means to make something of yourself in this country.
KA: So what do you hope comes from this project?
DD: I think collectively as a group we just want to be part of that needle that’s continuously pushing Congress and give them that urgency to act now for what will hopefully will be a long term immigration reform. Again, another common misconception that there is around DACA recipients is, ‘why didn’t you do it the right way?’ And right now there is no right way. And I tried this already during my time at Uber, I reached out to the immigration team and I told them, ‘hey, I’m a DACA recipient. Is there any sort of program, any sort of work visa that I could transfer myself into?’ And I already sort of knew that I couldn’t, but I just wanted to make sure, not, you know, not to leave any stone unturned. And then they finally got back to me and they said, we had to consult with an outside immigration firm because we weren’t sure, but just in summary, there isn’t anything that you can do. There is no pathway to citizenship, no right way to do it. As far as it is right now, DACA is the most right and legal way for people in my situation to make a living, to provide for their families, to pursue those dreams that they came in this country for.