DACAmented and Still Fighting in the Trenches

DACAmented and Still Fighting in the Trenches

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FRESNO, Calif. -- There are about 800,000 Dreamers in the United States, and about 61,000 are in the region between San Joaquín County and Tulare County.

Some were brought into the country as infants, others as teenagers. Their country is the United States, even though they don’t have the documentation to prove it.

This is a look at Pedro Ramírez and Xavier Vázquez Báez.

Ramírez, 28, graduated from Tulare High School and works in Fresno.

Vázquez Báez, 27, graduated from Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in Stockton and works in Fresno.

Both are Fresno State graduates.

Both have benefitted from President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program introduced in 2012.

Trump’s action re-ignites his passion

Pedro Ramírez was a poster boy for the Dreamer movement pre-DACA.

In 2011 when he was student body president at Fresno State, Ramírez was outed as undocumented but retained strong support from the university, fellow students and the community. He never accepted a penny from a stipend worth at least $9,000 for serving as president.

Ramírez refused to step down from the office. His undocumented status, he said, helped advance state policy, educated the public about undocumented children brought into the only country they know by their parents, and motivated him.

That activism was born from the 2006-07 student-led walkouts against anti-immigrant proposals in Congress.

“I don’t regret any of what I’ve done because a lot of good has come from it, but I am tired,” he posted on his Facebook page last week. “I am tired of politics, tired of being used as a political football, tired of all the BS. I’ve lost friends, relationships, and put my family at risk.”

Ramírez – who graduated from Fresno State with a degree in political science, and later earned a master’s in public policy at Long Beach State – worked for Los Ángeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for four years before returning to the San Joaquín Valley.

President Donald J. Trump’s revocation of DACA has re-ignited Ramírez’s passion.

“It’s one thing to lose your work permit, it’s another thing knowing that the government knows where you are, and they can use that information to go after you,” said Ramírez. “And they might actually plan to do just that.”

Ramírez says the political landscape has changed with Trump in office.

“The situation is different from when George W. Bush was president, when Ronald Reagan was president; they had compassion for immigrants. This president does not, and he’s not afraid to make threats to get what he wants,” said Ramírez.

Ramírez fears for family and other DACA immigrants.

“People who are citizens here, people who are residents, they’re fine. Nothing’s going to happen to you. Us, yeah. For all we know, they may deport us; they can put us in concentration camps, detention centers like they do in Texas and Arizona,” said Ramírez, whose father worked in construction, dairies and restaurants. His mother worked as a hotel maid.

Ramírez bristles that Trump would use DACA recipients (polls show major support for the program) to leverage Congress for money for a border wall.

Not even Trump’s twitter message is comfort for Ramírez.

The president wrote: “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about — No action!”

Ramírez works as a Central Valley campaign coordinator for the California Labor Federation in Fresno, a position he said he felt needed his attention because of the current administration.

“When Trump got elected I felt that I needed to return back to electoral politics; fight and hold him and those that support him accountable,” he said.

“I came (to the U.S.) when I was 3 years old. We lived in L.A. for several years before we came to the Central Valley, Tulare, where I lived the majority of my life until I graduated from high school,” said Ramírez.

His parents barely made it to middle school, he said.

“My parents definitely instilled education in me. The reason why they came to the country was for me to get a good education and to get a good job and get a good life.”

His work has involed the immigrant community

Xavier Vázquez Báez has made no secret about how DACA has helped him since 2013 when he applied and was accepted.

The 2013 Fresno State graduate (bachelor’s in political science) has taken an active role.

He wasn’t intimidated last week to share his story as he stood in front of the Robert E. Coyle Federal Building in downtown Fresno with many community members and organizations to lobby for DACA.

We sported a black T-shirt emblazoned with “I AM AN IMMIGRANT” in red-and-white letters.

Vázquez Báez came to the U.S. from the central Mexican state of Tlaxcala when he was 13. His family is a mixed status family – one of his siblings is also a DACA recipient while his younger sibling is a U.S. citizen. Both of his parents lack legal status.

He attended San Joaquín Delta College before he transferred to Fresno State.

Right after he obtained his work permit thanks to DACA, Vázquez Báez worked for the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno.

“That allowed me to work for the consulate for three years,” he said.

He worked on many immigration-related issues there.

“We worked with community organizations helping undocumented folks with their DACA applications.”

Vázquez Báez works as director of immigration services for the non-profit Education and Leadership Foundation in Fresno. The foundation was launched in 2012 and has served approximately 12,000 young adults – documented and undocumented – with DACA applications, scholarships, citizenship applications or petitioning family members for visas.

Vázquez Báez had the opportunity to travel to México through the foundation a couple of months ago under DACA’s advance parole.

Because the trip took place right after Trump was inaugurated as president, Vázquez Báez said it was a little scary for him since he was afraid of what could happen now that Trump was president.

“I went for a week because I knew the risk coming back,” Vázquez Báez said.

He was worried that he wouldn’t be admitted back at the border.

Trump’s campaign promise to rescind DACA, opened his eyes to the possibility that deportation could happen if DACA was taken away and that he would end up going back to a country he doesn’t know.

“My adult life has been here. This is where I’ve been working. This is where I studied. This is where my life is,” he said.

Vázquez Báez renewed his DACA status about a month ago and now he is waiting for the administration approval.

He has renewed his DACA application twice, once in 2015 and now in 2017. His current DACA card would have expired in January 2018.

“Let’s see what happens,” he said, adding that he is asking Congress to fight for all DACA recipients and be their voice in Washington, D.C.

If his application gets approved, Vázquez Báez would have another two years protection from deportation under DACA.

Vázquez Báez didn’t know who the Dreamers back in 2012. Now, he said, they are lawyers, doctors, and professionals who had proved themselves to contributed to the community in many ways from buying houses to paying taxes.

“We are not criminals,” he said.

Vázquez Báez said the weekend before the announcement by the White House to rescind the DACA program, the foundation helped DACA recipients to file their applications.

“We opened our office at 7 and we finished at 4,” he said, adding that they wanted to have all the cases they could ready to go and filed before the announcement was made on Sept. 5. “I feel accomplished because we were able to send those (new) cases so those individuals would be able to benefit from DACA.”

TOTAL DACA-ELIGIBLE POPULATION IN THE CENTRAL VALLEY BY COUNTY

Sacramento County: 13,000
San Joaquin County: 11,000
Stanislaus County: 8,000
Merced County: 6,000
Madera County: 4,000
Fresno County: 18,000
Kings County: 3,000
Tulare County: 11,000
Kern County: 15,000

Source: www.migrationpolicy.org