Arizona 'Dreamers' Worry as President Trump Mulls Ending DACA

Immigrants and allies gather in front of a local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, office to protest what could be the end of DACA.
Immigrants and allies gather in front of a local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, office to protest what could be the end of DACA. Molly Longman
Update: At a White House news briefing on Friday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump hadn't made an official decision on DACA and that he wouldn't make an announcement until Tuesday of next week.

Jose Patiño says his world could shatter today.

The 28-year-old Gilbert resident is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has protected almost 800,000 young adult unauthorized immigrants like him from deportation while allowing them to work legally in the U.S. since 2012.

But Thursday, a senior administration official told Fox News that Trump could decide to rescind DACA as early as today.

"Immediately, I'd probably have to lose my job," Patiño said of the potential end of DACA. "Secondly, I own a house, so I'd have to sign a citizen to the title. And third, I'd have to find a way to try and survive without a job."

Trump is  under increasing pressure to end the deferred action program — if he doesn’t act to nix it by September 5, Texas and other Republican-dominated state attorneys general are threatening to sue to end the program over its constitutionality. Arizona declined to sign off on this plan.

And despite rumors that the White House was looking to extend the September 5 deadline, the latest piece of administration gossip indicates Trump is poised to make the move soon, possibly today. The timing of the disconcerting news dump before a holiday weekend would be particularly in character for an administration that just last week announced another hit on immigrants, the pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, late Friday evening.

And with the DACA's potential demise comes a wave of anxiety over Arizona's Dreamers and activists. But they're not suffering in silence.

Immigrants, educators, and allies have been gathering in front of a local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Central Avenue in Phoenix from 10 a.m. until  7 p.m. since Tuesday making their voices heard.

On Thursday night, Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient, and the founder of immigrant activist group Aliento, spoke out against ICE and the looming termination of DACA in front of protesters carrying signs boasting messages such as "Education, Not Deportation."

"The Government made a promise to us. Made a promise that if we would come out of the shadows — if we would come forward and let them know who we were — they would not deport us," Montoya said. "Now they have all our records. There's 800,000 DACA recipients that are in the same shoes that I am. We are afraid knowing that we don't know if ICE, this agency, is going to come and knock our doors at 3 a.m. in the morning and not only sweep us and take us to a land that we don't know, but sweep our parents and take them away from our community. Because this is our community."

Patiño feels that sense of community too. He's been living in America since he was six years old.
click to enlarge Jose Patiño is a DACA recipient who would be affected if Trump moves to rescind DACA. - MOLLY LONGMAN
Jose Patiño is a DACA recipient who would be affected if Trump moves to rescind DACA.
Molly Longman

Now a loan officer and the director of campaigns at Aliento, he says he’s been fighting to stop the deportation of Dreamers like himself since 2007, when he was in high school and looking for a path forward after graduation.

Back then, he was pushing for Congress to pass a version of the DREAM Act.  The original DREAM Act — Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors— legislation was first introduced in 2001. It aimed to give undocumented children a path to citizenship, but it stalled in Congress. Then former President Barack Obama brought DACA into the picture in 2012.

It changed Patiño's life. With the help of the work authorization portion of the program, Patiño says he got his teaching certificate and taught high school math at Agua Fria High School in Avondale for two years.

“Under DACA, we’d be able to fulfill our career dreams,” Patiño said. “I was able to become a teacher for a couple years and I have so many friends following their dreams — building a home, building a family. It’s devastating that over night that could be taken from you. There’s no need for that. There’s no reason it should end.”

And yet the end could be near. And Patiño and other activists and allies plan to make the most of the hours or days before the potential curtain call of the program that made it feel like the show could go on.

That's why they spent their Thursday evening marching in front of the ICE building chanting that the people hold the power in Spanish and English.

Both Patiño and Montoya say they still have hope the president will hear their concerns and hold off on revoking DACA. If the White House does move forward with ending DACA, Patiño says he and other activists want to work with local elected officials and members Congress to create a more permanent solution for immigrants.

“There are a lot of people I know who are breaking down and some are crying,” Patiño says. “A lot of people are angry. … A lot of us are just really tired and worn down, but we want to fight. We believe that we can make a change. We want to do something.”
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Molly Longman