What is it like to live everyday in fear and constantly dehumanized in the time of Trump? The undocumented community can provide an accurate account, fearing deportation, as families are ripped apart day after day. In early September 2017, the Trump Administration announced their plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA. DACA is a policy implemented to protect individuals from deportation, primarily those individuals who were brought to the United States as young children by their parents or family members. DACA recipients were young when they arrived to the United States; they did not have any say on the matter of their arrival. The parents or family members are the ones who made the decision to come to the United States with hopes of a better life, more safety, and better opportunities than they have in their native country. The end of DACA now places the undocumented DACA recipients in danger.
In addition to the fear and uncertainty they might feel in regards to their future, members of the undocumented community have to live with the negative labels and perceptions that the Trump administration and society at large has placed on them. The terms “illegal” and “rapist” are among the few words Trump himself used at the start of his presidential campaign, and these words are continuously being used to verbally attack and degrade members of the undocumented Latinx community. In addition to these views that are being spread by Trump and his administration, the undocumented community is also prone to experience both physical and verbal violence. According to the Hate Crime Report conducted and published in 2016 by the Los Angeles County Commision on Human Relations, anti-Latinx hate crimes increased from 61% to 62%, and 77% of the crimes targeting Latinxs are more likely to be violent, but verbally violent crimes that use anti-immigrant slurs have also increased. A particular incident in the report highlights a hate crime experienced by a family, in which they found a swastika, anti-latinx graffiti, with “Trump” spray-painted on their home, in addition to a note saying “keep your spic children off our property.” The direct reference to Donald Trump shows how the election and presidency of Trump can motivate hate-crimes with anti-immigrant sentiments towards the Latinx community.
The unpredictability regarding the future of undocumented students in the United States is an issue one cannot brush away and forget about. The fact of the matter is that this issue is one that persists within Latinx communities, and other marginalized communities. Raising awareness by sparking conversations are among the first few steps to be made so others do not forget about the importance of this issue.
Perhaps if more people had known about the struggles of undocumented students and if an appropriate amount of awareness had been raised, the struggles and hardships experienced by the undocumented community could have been lessened, to a certain extent. “I didn’t know what DACA was initially, but then I learned about it when it was terminated. It’s terrible. Having parents that are immigrants makes this really hit home. I was born here but I could’ve easily been one of those students,” says Sharmi Olvera, a first-year psychobiology student.
The termination of DACA was addressed via an email by the Chancellor, Gene Block, in which the UCLA community was informed that the university “would continue to provide [DACA recipients] and student groups with information and campus support services.” Block finished the email statement urging Congress to protect the undocumented student community.
However, students believe there are more actions that can be done to raise awareness for the undocumented students on campus. The actions can range from protests, to something as simple as handing out flyers with information about the cause in order to continue informing the larger community about this issue that endless students and individuals face on a daily basis.
Education is a human right, but the reality is that there are many barriers undocumented students have to face. “Students should feel good about pursuing education, and should not feel a burden about being deported,” explains Ricardo Martínez, a first-year economics major, who agrees that more support should be offered by UCLA to the undocumented student community, as they are experiencing a great amount of fear with the current administration.
“More needs to be done at a greater level. If stuff would happen to white people it’d be a big deal. No one takes this seriously. We should protest and be more vocal. There should be more organizations on campus to support those affected by DACA’s termination, and undocumented individuals in general,” says Sharmi Olvera.
During these times, solidarity is important. The fact that the Trump administration sought to end DACA only demonstrates its racist agenda. In order to create solidarity, it is our duty to provide support to DACA recipients and the undocumented community by being more vocal about issues regarding immigration in order for change to occur. Those individuals impacted by the xenophobic actions of the Trump administration to end DACA are our friends and our classmates, and we must stand beside them and advocate together for an immigration reform.
UCLA does provide support to undocumented students through the Undocumented Student Center. This support involves various types of counseling, ranging from academic counseling, financial advising, legal services, and provides an emotional support system to encourage the students to succeed at this institution despite any obstacles they face. Furthermore, the Undocumented Student Program (USP) seeks to raise awareness about the issues the undocumented students face on a daily basis, as a large part of their mission statement is to promote educational equity.
IDEAS is another prominent organization that creates a space for the undocumented community on campus. IDEAS, which stands for “Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success,” is devoted to providing a platform for the issues the undocumented and immigrant community on campus endures, with immigration reform being a key component of their social justice framework. Members of IDEAS create events to advocate for funds; oftentimes, actual undocumented students themselves are the ones fighting for more visibility, rights, and resources.
The rhetoric of the Trump administration enables certain individuals to feel like they are entitled to actively dehumanize and attack the undocumented community. According to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research center, 47% of individuals of the Latinx community, regardless of their immigration status, fear that a member of their family, a close friend, or themselves could face deportation.
Trump’s plan to make America great is not one that involves immigration reform, as it is a topic that is dismissed by the current administration. We cannot let issues like immigration and DACA being terminated get swept under the rug. Individuals with DACA came to the United States as children, and their opportunity to pursue higher education and have a chance at a successful future should not be seen as a threat; they have a right to stay, and they are here to stay.
Our voice is powerful. The privilege we have to speak up is powerful. The change we can create with it is not one that can be taken for granted. As individuals, we must stay up to date on legislation and policies involving immigration and seek to inform other individuals about issues the undocumented community faces. As a collective, we must advocate for safe spaces for the undocumented communities by creating sanctuary locations and becoming affiliated with organizations that serve undocumented communities, such as CHIRLA and Freedom for Immigrants. Education and activism are among the first steps to create change.