DACA recipients prepare for the future

Phoenix immigration lawyer Josh Nuñez stands outside of the Arizona Center for Neighborhood Leadership headquarters before speaking to attendees of a Life Without DACA event Saturday. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Community organizers appeared emotional but determined Saturday in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last week.

The Arizona Center for Neighborhood Leadership hosted a gathering Saturday morning to discuss the end of the DACA program. It was the first of an ongoing event series concerning DACA.

The DACA program was created by former President Barack Obama’s executive order in 2012 and grants two-year work permits and protection from deportation to 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. About 28,000 of these DACA recipients live in Arizona.

On Sept. 5, Trump ordered an end to this program with a six-month delay, meaning DACA recipients would be eligible for deportation once their paperwork expired.

RELATED: High school DACA students face an uncertain future

Saturday’s Life Without DACA event focused on next steps for current DACA beneficiaries including sharing legal advice, upcoming events, and words of encouragement and understanding.

“It’s very important to talk about what’s going to happen,” Viridiana Hernandez, executive director of the Center for Neighborhood Leadership, said. “We’ve been able to live without papers in the past. We just need to be ready.”

Multiple speakers stressed it is possible to live without papers, but the transition would be difficult for young people who had come of age in the DACA program.

“It has been a heavy week,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was 1 year old and lived undocumented for 25 years.

Phoenix immigration lawyer Josh Nuñez spoke to attendees about legal fees, paperwork deadlines and what the end of DACA could mean.

As of Sept. 5, new DACA applications will no longer be accepted. However, current beneficiaries can re-apply by Oct. 5 if their paperwork will expire prior to March 5.

While legal representation is not necessary to re-apply, many go to lawyers for help with the application’s extensive paperwork.

Because of this, Hernandez said she is increasingly worried about misinformation and fraud, saying non-immigration lawyers flock to the immigration law field at moments such as these and “take advantage of the community’s fear.”

Cynthia Domenzain, community organizer for Camiso, the Center for Neighborhood Leadership advocacy project for undocumented immigrants, said community-level organizations help guard against this by sending people to trusted lawyers and educating them about the specific challenges of the area they live in.

“When we do these events, we provide a safety net,” Domenzain said. “It’s important for us to continue to do that. These spaces are necessary.”

Domenzain is currently a DACA recipient.

Life After DACA event attendee Griselva Cruz and about 40 other attendees chant “We have a duty to fight for our freedom. We have a duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains,” together outside of the Center for Neighborhood Leadership on Sept. 9, 2017. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Center for Neighborhood Leadership and other nonprofits, including Phoenix-based activist group Trans Queer Pueblo, will host free DACA renewal drives during the next three Saturdays.

Nuñez said 70 lawyers volunteered to attend these drives, giving free legal advice and assistance.

Daphne Cervantes, organizer for the Center for Neighborhood Leadership’s “Ignite” youth program, said transitioning from life with DACA to life without would be a rough change for those who grew up in the program.

Cervantes, now an ASU freshman, was born in the United States, but her parents are undocumented.

“I want to do (this work) for my mom to give her peace,” Cervantes said. “I want her to be able to go to the store, to go to work, without being afraid.”

Cervantes said DACA’s removal would affect the entire community, and community-driven work would be important moving forward, as would the work of young people.

Cervantes said young people often don’t feel like they have enough experience to make change in political issues like DACA’s removal, but “we’ve been impacted by the oppressive systems that have been in place. We have a voice.”

During the community commentary section of the event, attendee Griselva Cruz broke down in tears.

“How can this country that is based on family do this to students?” she said. “It hurts my heart.”

Hernandez ended the event by inviting the attendees to stand. She told them to repeat after her three times, louder each time, “We have a duty to fight for our freedom. We have a duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

“You have power,” Domenzain said. “With DACA, without DACA, you have power … Prepare for the worst, prepare for the best, prepare for the fight.”

Contact the reporter at Nicole.Neri@asu.edu.