By Roberto Alcantar
A few years ago, 21-year-old Xiomara Herrera was afraid to leave her home for fear of deportation. Today she’s contributing to society as a student working towards a degree in sociology.
Xiomara is one of 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who came forward in good faith to enroll in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a federal program that promised law-abiding, immigrant youth brought to the U.S. illegally, the freedom to live, study and work here.
She and 97 percent of DACA recipients are employed or enrolled in school. They lived up to their end of the bargain. Xiomara is in school, has a job to support her and her four siblings’ rent.
Since age 6 when she arrived from Guerrero, Mexico, Orange County and San Diego have been her only homes. Now childhood nightmares of being deported have re-emerged – since September 5, to be exact, the day Trump said he would renege on this deal and end DACA. Now suddenly and cruelly, young immigrants such as Xiomara can no longer rely on the peace of mind that DACA provided.
“Since the cancellation of DACA, I have been living a life of uncertainty,” she says. “Of not knowing what will happen after the expiration date on a card that gives me certain privileges.”
A few holdout politicians say fixing DACA is not urgent and young people like Xiomara should live in fear and uncertainty until Trump’s March 6 deadline to end DACA. But for tens of thousands of San Diegans, fixing this predicament is urgent, making this holiday season one full of anxiety. Already, an estimated 12,000 young immigrants have lost their status and face deportation.
“I admit that I find myself emotionally unstable,” Xiomara said. “It’s something that many don’t know because many times I set these fears aside and use them to fight against what I believe was an act of injustice.”
But there is a solution! Both Democrats and Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, ACLU, and hundreds of community leaders support the Dream Act — a bipartisan solution that addresses deportation and offers a path to citizenship.
However, in true Washington dysfunction, a few self-serving politicians have ignored constituent requests, withholding their support.
Earlier this month, Xiomara was one of more than 300 people who attended a rally in Vista, Calif., calling on Issa, to pass the Dream Act before the holidays. Hearing no response, this week, Xiomara will sacrifice income and holiday time with her family to travel to D.C. to try to reach Congressman Issa.
Congressman Issa should not be allowed to return home to enjoy the peace with his family until all families in his district have this same luxury.
Please call Darrell Issa at (844) 335-4855. Urge him to stop putting young people’s lives in unnecessary chaos and vote family over special interests. He can bring continued prosperity to our country and peace of mind for young people like Xiomara by signing on to the Dream Act. Let’s all celebrate a peaceful Christmas with our families without fear of deportation to an unfamiliar country.
Roberto Alcantar is the senior immigrant rights policy strategist for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.