Immigrants: We are more than a work permit
Just nine days after President Donald Trump granted a pardon to Arizona’s most infamous and anti-immigrant sheriff, Joe Arpaio, Trump decided to double down by directly attacking immigrant youth nationwide.
On Sept. 5, in a cowardly and erroneous move by the current administration, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly announced the rescission of the Obamaera administrative relief program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The six-month phase-out of the program, which protected more than 800,000 immigrant youth from deportation across the nation, has sparked a high level of uncertainty amid an already chaotic time for all immigrant families in the U.S. Reactions against this decision did not take long to come out. In the case of New Mexico’s members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham called it a “cruel” decision that made it “obvious that he [Donald Trump] does not value the pursuit of the American Dream.” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján echoed Grisham’s statement by declaring he will oppose any attempts by the Trump administration to “rip these young people away from the country in which they have grown up and that they love and respect.”
Following suit, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said, “We [the U.S.] should not be a nation that tears families apart. Heinrich also reaffirmed that he “will not stand for policies that are contrary to our fundamental American ideals and values.” Lastly, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall reiterated Trump’s wrongful decision by stating it only puts the lives and futures of nearly 7,000 New Mexicans in “jeopardy and already is causing fear among families and throughout communities.”
Although the near future looks unclear — putting the fate of millions of immigrant families in the hands of Congress — one thing is clear for me: We are more than a work permit. The program does not define us! DACA has granted nearly 1 million young immigrants a new sense of security and stability, and we will fight like hell to make sure more people have access to safety and security under the Trump regime.
With this same goal in mind, more than 1,500 students around New Mexico — from Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Anthony — participated in a statewide student walkout for immigrant justice to decry DACA’s rescission. Then, nearly 1,000 people — ranging from immigrant youth, families and community allies — came together at Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza to heal, recharge and strengthen our commitment to protect all immigrant families in New Mexico.
The next six months will be our toughest battle yet; reclaiming our safety, our dignity and most importantly, our humanity. But as the old saying goes: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This new development opens up a door to work on a clean legislative piece that would grant protection to more of our families. But make no mistake, our families will not be used as bargaining chips to compromise our safety for funding for Trump’s border wall, more enforcement in the border region or increased bed capacity for the inhumane immigrant detention centers.
Immigrant youth and families are tired of being used as political pawns and will not give in to throwing some of our community under the bus. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Immigrant youth fought and won DACA after years of pressure and community organizing — it was not handed down by the former administration.
Building on the amazing support that has been built since before the termination of DACA, and knowing the resilience found in my community, I am certain we will win once again.
Gabriela Hernandez is the executive director for the New Mexico Dream Team & Southwest Regional Organizer for United We Dream.