Nov. 9, 2016, was a day when many people in the United States felt stunned and lost. I was one of those people, but my circumstances were a bit different. As a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, my future and my family’s seemed like a dark cloud of escalated deportations and hopelessness as we imagined everything we had fought so hard for being taken away.
Normally, I am a fighter, an optimist, someone who never backs down. I would be lying, however, if I said the rise of the person some call president hadn’t left me defeated, weak, unsafe. I wondered how we, as a community, could strategically fight for our lives when the people in power lacked the empathy and a sense of justice and value in the lives of undocumented immigrants and people of color to have human rights. This was a game changer, leaving us to question everything we knew. A very stark difference from 2012 when I was beginning to get involved and finally feeling empowered by other brave undocumented youth.
Days after the election I found myself looking around at people, wondering if they saw such little value in my community that they thought it was OK to gamble away our futures by voting for a person like Donald Trump.
With tears in my eyes and the heavy duty I had to those who felt scared, I had to pick myself up with the help of my peers who were feeling the same, and together we vowed to continue fighting for our rights, because it was the only choice we had. In January 2017, we founded the organization Undocumented Students for Education Equity at Arizona State University. Our mission is to fight for equitable access to education, educational resources and work to bring solidarity among students and allies to issues impacting the undocumented community in and outside of ASU.
As DACA recipients in Arizona we face twofold the fear and anxiety due to not only enduring attacks from the federal government, but our local elected officials, like Governor Doug Ducey who continues to stay silent in protecting our rights and our families. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich who to this very moment continues his personal agenda to raise tuition rates for undocumented students to make education unattainable, in addition to continuing a case to eliminate our right to obtain driver’s licenses in Arizona. They have made it very clear time and time again – they do not have our backs. But if there is one thing that history has shown is that our resilience will always prevail.
Now, seven months since the inauguration and after the events of Charlottesville, the fate of DACA will be the first major policy test of the Trump administration. Trump said he would deal with undocumented youth “with heart,” but that is yet to be shown as he threatened to take DACA away the moment he took office on inauguration day and now with rumors of his administration wanting to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip for deporting our families. At the same time having his white supremacist White House aides pressuring him to end the DACA program and leaving 800,000 undocumented youth even more vulnerable to being chased down by ICE agents, locked in immigrant detention centers and deported. Killing DACA is a violent white supremacist priority.
No matter what happens in the next few months or the next few days, we will not go back into the shadows. We fought to make DACA happen and we will continue to fight like hell to protect it and our families. We will survive this administration, because our love for our people is stronger than anyone’s hate.
— Belen Sisa studies political science and history at Arizona State University School of Politics and Global Studies.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.