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Local Dreamers: We're not going back
Following Tuesday's announcement ending the Obama-era program that shielded children of undocumented immigrants from deportation, Portland Community College student Jhoana Monroy, 25, is trying to figure out how to drop off her kids at school if her driving privileges are revoked.
Ricardo Lujan Valerio, 22, is wondering what this means for his plans to go to law school, and how he can protect his parents, who are undocumented and living in Southern Oregon.
Liliana Luna, 27, is recalling the last time she risked deportation, when she was arrested in 2012 for protesting in Portland.
The three stories show how the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, known as "Dreamers," are reacting in Oregon to the news that President Donald Trump plans to phase out participants' ability to renew.
If supporters of the new policy felt it would cause the Dreamers to head back to their native countries, they might be mistaken. Because in Oregon, at least, they say they're not going anywhere.
"I mean this is our home. We consider ourselves Oregonians first and foremost, and this is what we know," says Lujan Valerio, a downtown Portland resident who works as the legislative director for the Oregon Students Association. "We have deep roots with our cultures back home in our respective countries, but at the end of the day I'm the neighbor of the next Portlander here in Oregon."
Instead, they plan to fight by pushing Congress to act to keep them from being deported.
Trump has said he would support legislation that offers comprehensive immigration reform, though details remain unclear.
There are more than 16,000 Dreamers in Oregon, activists say, 5,000 of them in the Portland area. Nationally, there are roughly 800,000.
Under the Trump plan, those in the program who are eligible to apply in the next six months need to do so by October, according to media accounts. Then they'll have two more years in the program. But those who are not due to renew until March 6 will be at risk of deportation following that date.
The Oregon Dreamers say they intend to renew, and fight.
"That's what we're going to do, continue to fight along with our allies," Luna said. "We have no plans to go back to our countries or leaving the things we're doing right now."
Luna works at the Rock Creek campus of PCC, in the retention and multicultural center. She founded a mentoring program called The DREAM Project, a collaboration between Portland Community College and Institute for Mexicans Abroad Fellowship Program.
She created the program because she was undocumented while studying at PCC.
"We knew DACA wasn't a permanent solution," she added. "We're willing to do anything and everything to make sure all dreamers are protected and eventually our parents as well."
Lujan Valerio agrees. "Most of the dreamers had to live without DACA for a long time," he says. "And we survived … We know how to fight back and we know how to organize.
"Donald Trump doesn't know, the Republican Congress doesn't know, what they're getting into in terms of activating such a passionate community."
Monroy plans to fight to effect change in Congress, but admits she feels some uncertainty, too.
"I'm fearful most for my family, my uncles, my aunts and my cousins —my family without documents. It was a requirement for DACA to release all of that information," she says.
Monroy adds that she's worried how her daughters, ages 6 and 8, will take the news, as they already have enough on their minds.
"I don't want them to be scared," she says. "It's their first day of school. I'm not trying to tell them yet."