Fighting for DACA in Southwest Detroit

Fighting for DACA in Southwest Detroit
September 7, 2017 Detroit Public TV

Bill Kubota, Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative

September 6, 2017

   This week President Donald Trump’s six-month phase out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has caused a slew of Democratic state attorneys general to file suit against his plan. No comment yet from Michigan’s Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, but across the country and across the state supporters of DACA have been holding rallies and protests.

DACA recipients are those who arrived in the US undocumented as children under 16, but are allowed to stay because of a policy enacted by President Obama in 2012. Without DACA, the recipients, or Dreamers as they’re called, might have to return to the country of their birth. Many of them arrived here so young, they know nothing about that country and can’t even speak the language.

One rally attracted a more than a hundred people to Southwest Detroit’s Clark Park, across the street from Western High School, organized by seventeen-year old Alondra Alvarez.

Alondra Alvarez is a senior at Western High School in Southwest Detroit

Alondra Alvarez is a senior at Western High School in Southwest Detroit

“It’ll affect Southwest and me because that’s our family,” said Alvarez, “That’s our community and without a community there’s nothing.”

  Some DACA recipients currently attend Western High School, but none spoke at the rally. Rally leader David Sanchez of Michigan United, an immigrant advocacy group, said many are shy or fearful they might be singled out by the authorities.

One not afraid to speak was 24 year-old Juan Gonzalez of Lincoln Park. He arrived in the U.S. as a one-year old, grew up in Detroit, and told the crowd, “With DACA I was able to get a job, buy a house, buy a car, go to school full time, work full time, it’s been a great time honestly, it’s been marvelous. But now it’s all in danger.”

24 year-old Juan Gonzalez grew up in Southwest Detroit

24 year-old Juan Gonzalez grew up in Southwest Detroit

  Gonzalez works at Quicken Loans and studies at Wayne State University.

  Another local DACA recipient, Julia Aldaba told the crowd, “We cannot just tweet and retweet and go on Facebook and talk about it. We’ve got to stand up and do it, like, action.”

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, was first proposed in Congress in 2001, intended to help undocumented minors. It was never passed into law, but issued by executive order by President Obama, and now President Trump is rescinding it.

Rev. Kevin Casillas leads a church in Southwest Detroit and teaches Spanish at Western High School

Rev. Kevin Casillas leads a church in Southwest Detroit and teaches Spanish at Western High
School

Trump has given Congress six months to pass a law to protect the Dreamers.Reverend Kevin Casillas of the First Latin American Baptist Church in Detroit called on Congress to make to take action. “It is too long in waiting,” he said, “We are tired of you using our young people as a political football. They are not a political football.”

Southwest Detroit community activist Consuela Lopez said, “Nine months ago you had families that didn’t send their youth to school, who didn’t go to their church, didn’t go to their mosque because of this, and again it’s the uncertainty.”

Activist Consuela Lopez works with Dreamers who are away at college

Activist Consuela Lopez works with Dreamers who are away at college

Lopez counsels DACA recipients and spend a lot of the past few days on the phone.

  “I have about 47 youth who are juniors, sophomores and freshmen in universities across the country,” she said, “They don’t know if they’ll be kicked out of school, and if they get kicked out of school, then what’s going to happen?” There are 800-thousand Dreamers in the U.S. More than six-thousand live in Michigan.

One Detroit’s coverage of the rally appeared on Detroit Public Television’s MiWeek with Christy McDonald on September 7, 2017.

From protest to hunger strike, Dreamer Juan Gonzalez says he’s just begun a hunger strike with some other DACA recipients and supporters here and in Washington DC in an effort to get Congress to act and plans to update his situation regularly on YouTube.

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