The Latino Civic Alliance and the League of United Latin American Citizens encouraged Latinos on Saturday not to panic about the president-elect’s tough campaign promises to deport millions of undocumented workers.
But amidst the calming pledges that Donald Trump’s immigration promises will have little immediate effect on Mid-Columbia residents, one young woman issued a call to action to preserve the federal law that defers action against undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Tri-City educators, law enforcement officers and others encouraged residents to keep sending children to school and to work with police at Moving Forward!, a community event designed to assuage fears that have taken root since the Nov. 8 election.
Elizabeth Hernandez was one of those brought to the country as a child, but she didn’t know she was undocumented until she graduated from high school, at the top of her class. Her family had immigrated to the U.S. when she was 6, she told the crowd of about 150.
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Her status prevented her from applying for financial aid or grants. Undaunted, she went to college anyway, to Eastern Washington University.
President Obama passed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act as an executive order in 2012, allowing undocumented children such as Hernandez to remain in the country under renewable two-year work permits. The new administration is expected to repeal DACA shortly after the Jan. 20 inauguration.
That prospect is sending shock waves through the community of undocumented students pursuing college degrees, including those who once belonged to Dreams Without Borders, a club Hernandez established at Columbia Basin College to serve students in her same situation.
“I can’t count how many former students of this club called me. They feel their dreams are threatened,” she said.
“Today, I ask the community to come together and support the students.”
One after another, Hernandez and the other speakers said local government does not collect information about immigration status or report to immigration officials.
“The city of Pasco is not a subsidiary of the federal government,” Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said, adding that immigration status should never affect public safety. If you need help, he said, call the police.
Parents should not let their fears or alarming tales in the news keep kids from school, said Sarah Thornton, assistant superintendent for legal affairs for the Pasco School District.
The district does not ask for Social Security numbers or proof of citizenship when it enrolls students, and it has procedures in place to help fearful students make sense of the post-election confusion, Thornton said.
Most importantly, kids belong in school.
“Immigrant children, regardless of their status, are legally entitled to attend school and indeed, are required to attend school,” she said.