DREAMers at USC feel uncertainty, fear deportation

Kimberly Alvarado and Ana Mercado are two of the 750,000 DREAMers nationwide who are protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the California Dream Act programs for undocumented people.

After former President Barack Obama issued the executive order in June 2012, many undocumented immigrants received work permits and felt protected from deportation. While the DREAM Act only applies in California, the term “DREAMers” is used to refer to undocumented people protected under DACA.

Now, under the Trump administration, undocumented students at USC like Alvarado and Mercado fear that they may be deported despite these protections.

Although President Donald Trump promised to focus deportation forces on removing criminal immigrants, Manuel Montes, a DREAMer, became the first with DACA status to be deported to Mexico. He was spending time with his girlfriend in Calexico, Calif. when immigration authorities asked for his documentation. Other than Montes, there are currently 10 DACA enrollees in custody, according to United We Dream.

For Mercado, a sophomore majoring in contemporary Latino and Latin American studies and sociology, returning to her birthplace Jalisco, Mexico would mean returning to a place she left when she was only three years old.

Mercado remembers that when she was younger, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers came to her home. She remembers her mother covering her mouth and telling her to stay quiet.

“I remember when they knocked on the door, my mom froze. Everything can go from being OK to not OK in seconds, and I felt that I started to understand that we were different,” Mercado said.  “Even though we call ourselves Americans … I am a foreigner to this country.”

Mercado is the president of the student-led group called Improving Dreams Education Access and Success at USC. The group strives to create a safe space and positive dialogue among undocumented students and allies. Despite the support of the club, Mercado still has fears for the future.

“There are a lot of scary feelings involved,” Mercado said. “I could be the next one. And it could happen at any point. USC says that we’re protected as long as we are on campus, but what happens when I go home?”

After President Donald Trump signed an executive order increasing the enforcement against undocumented immigrants, Provost Michael Quick shared a statement in support of the University’s international community.

“We want to assure you that we are fully committed to supporting all members of our Trojan Family — regardless of their national origin or religious affiliation,” the statement said. “We are proud to have, and we are better by having, a richly diverse community. We will do everything we can to ensure all of our academic community can continue to study, research and teach at USC.”

Billy Vela, the adviser of IDEAS at USC and the director of El Centro Chicano, believes that the steps Trump is taking against immigrants serve as hints to the future of his administration.

“I am deeply concerned about what can happen as [Trump] gives us hints as to what might be coming next,” Vela wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “I think it’s incredibly important for the Trojan Family … to come together proactively in support of our diversity, since [Trump’s] executive orders are impacting many communities within the Trojan Family.”

Kimberly Alvarado, a sophomore majoring in psychology, was born in El Salvador and remembers being younger and feeling different from other students. She said that although she didn’t feel completely safe before the election, she is now more fearful.

“There’s fear of me being deported,” Alvarado said. “I have two little sisters, and they were born here. If, God forbid, my mom is deported, I will have to drop out of school to take care of my sisters.”

According to Niels Frenzen, the director of the USC Gould Immigration Clinic, the University is taking both official and unofficial steps to protect students on campus. He also added that the specifics about the DREAMers’ deportation are unclear.

“[The Department of Homeland Security] and Trump have recently reaffirmed that the DACA program will not be terminated,” Frenzen wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “While there have been isolated incidents of DACA immigrants being arrested by DHS, there is nothing to indicate that the new administration is pursuing DACA immigrants for deportation.”

Frenzen also said that the immigration clinic provides resources for undocumented and DACA students on campus, including one-on-one appointments and assistance when filling out immigration and DACA applications.

Even with the help provided by the University, students like Alvarado still feel that they do not belong in the country.

“Parents come to this country to give their children a better life,” Alvarado said. “We’re out here working. We’re studying. And we’re not being accepted. One of the things that hurts me the most is the United States is my home, but it doesn’t recognize me.”

8 replies
  1. K Brown
    K Brown says:

    DACA should be revoked and these “kids” should hire a lawyer and defend themselves in court.

  2. Jane lain
    Jane lain says:

    This is the last and only president who will enforce Immigration laws. If Trump does not do it, this country is doomed to open borders.

    We need to secure our borders, and deport as many people as possible. They need to bring in the national guard in addition to hiring 100,000 border agents.

  3. BostonTW
    BostonTW says:

    These illegal aliens are not protected by DACA, an unconstitutional executive order that provides very little other than deferred deportation. When they graduate, the women should return to and be unashamed of their native countries and take full advantage of their elite educations. Armed with USC diplomas, they will each succeed, prosper and become contributing citizens of their nations. That is their destiny! That is their hope! And in returning to their home nations, they will help them become better places in which to live and raise their families.

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      The only defense for the claim that it is unconstitutional is the certainty that nobody who wants to believe Obama is an usurper will bother to check the immigration laws.

    • jrs
      jrs says:

      Unfortunately for the American tax payers these females will remain here and create anchor babies for US citizens to subsidize . . . and become liberal activists so they can tell the world how unfairly they have been treated. So called “DREAMers” are criminal aliens just like their parents. Hopefully we will see an end to DACA and “DREAMers” placed in Immigration Detention Centers where they really belong.

      • randy johnson
        randy johnson says:

        In 2012 illegal aliens sent home $62 BILLION in remittances back to their
        countries of origin. (This is why Mexico is getting involved in our politics.)

        30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.Does not include local jails and State Prisons.

        $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school
        education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of

        $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.

        $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as
        (SNAP) food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.

        $22 billion is spent on (AFDC) welfare to illegal aliens each year.

        $3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens.

        Nearly One Million Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States.

        The MSM would have you believe that illegals wonk only at picking fruit. This is a lie.

        * Over 1.1 million illegal immigrants work in construction.
        * Over 950,000 illegal immigrants work in professional and business. services
        * Over 800,000 illegal immigrants work in manufacturing
        * And less than 400,000 illegal immigrants work in agriculture

        $200 Billion Dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused by the illegal aliens.

  4. Lance
    Lance says:

    Sadly, Trump’s contentious issue is yet one more thing that makes being an international student difficult, on top of our already complex culture and language. Assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources to aid these young people embarking on their life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand so we all have a win-win situation.

    An award-winning worldwide book/ebook that reaches out to help anyone coming to the US is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It is used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors. It also identifies “foreigners” who became successful in the US and how they’ve contributed to our society, including students.

    A chapter on education explains how to be accepted to an American university and cope with a confusing new culture, friendship process and daunting classroom differences. Some stay after graduation. It has chapters that explain how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.

    It also has chapters that identify the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.

    Good luck to all at USC or wherever you study or wherever you come from, because that is the TRUE spirit of the American PEOPLE, not a few in government who have the loudest voice!

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