In a move that shocked Americans across the nation, President Trump ended the immigration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), on September 5, 2017. DACA, enacted during the Obama administration, provides a two-year period of relief for new immigrant arrivals, specifically immigrant youth, and protects them from the risk of deportation.
More than 800,000 people, known as dreamers, are at risk of being deported from the country now that DACA is being forcibly rescinded. This administrative move is a debilitating one - putting dreamers lives’ at stake and potentially uprooting them and their families.
At the beginning of this year, Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously to keep Santa Cruz as a sanctuary city for undocumented residents. Santa Cruz County is estimated to have around 21,000 undocumented residents, according to Edible Monterey Bay. One source believes 15,000 of those residents are covered under DACA.
“The termination of DACA is sending waves of fear of massive deportation,” says Ernestina Saldana, a powerhouse in the local social justice movement and scene.
In light of this, several local organizations and their respective supporters rapidly banded together in various areas around the greater Santa Cruz and Monterey counties after Jeff Sessions’ announcement on Tuesday. There were four organized demonstrations held late afternoon in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Salinas, and Monterey.
The Santa Cruz DACA solidarity protest brought out close to a hundred supporters with homemade signs to the front of the clock tower on Pacific Avenue. Cheers would erupt from supporters upon seeing more people join the demonstration. People were graciously welcomed and quickly ushered into the group as they neared the clock tower.
Rebekah Leekley, one of the participants, voiced her outrage over Trump’s move. “Being here is a human right,” she said. “These are lives that are being messed with. It is unjust, it is un-American, and it has no place in society.”
Supporters drove from various locations, such as mother-daughter pair and Indivisible members, Carly and Mercedes - who drove down from San José - to stand in solidarity and voice their frustrations about the shocking administrative move. Nancy Abbey, the sister of the late Edward Abbey (The Monkey Wrench Gang, Desert Solitaire), was also present at the scene.
Gabriela Cruz, who attended the DACA protest, shares her experience and insight as a Dreamer. Having lived in the United States for the past 28 years, she knows no other home other than this country. She believes there is a loss of cultural identity in the Latino/a diaspora because of the pressure to assimilate into American culture and the desire to shed the “immigrant” identity to avoid discrimination. By shedding the identity, however, their cultural roots and language become lost in the process.
Cruz was disappointed in the lack of Latino/a supporters at the demonstration and believes fear and lack of awareness are the reasons behind it. Feeling motivated to kickstart her activism, Cruz became an administrator at Sanctuary Santa Cruz, a local movement that supports immigrants and shines a light on the societal barriers they face.
Drivers at the intersection of Water and Pacific Avenue and showed their support as the crowd continued to grow well into the day. Not a moment went by where encouraging honks from passing cars couldn’t be heard on Pacific Avenue on that day. Chants, like “Education, not Deportation!”, and open dialogue between supporters kept the DACA solidarity demonstration going well into the early evening hours.
When prompted if Saldana believes that the American Dream is still alive, she replies with an answer indicating the missed opportunities not just Dreamers, but a greater community, face in their lifetimes. “The American Dream has never been for people of color, it has always been out of our reach, unattainable,” states Saldana. “That won't change until people with privilege start scrutinizing their words and actions and the effect those have.”