Last month I joined 500 immigrant youth organizers as they convened for the United We Dream congress. As organizers shared their stories, I was struck by how deportations have broken so many of their families. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was a victory, allowing many young people to live and work in the United States without fear of removal, but for many who are still separated from loved ones abroad, the dream is now to see their families reunited and protected from the threat of deportation.
Raised in a tiny village in Galilee, my father, the eldest of 5 children, was raised by loving parents who made a meager living as poor farmers. My mother, who was raised in an orphanage from a young age by a community of Sisters in Jerusalem, married my father at seventeen. During my childhood, my father worked as a mechanic and my mother as a teacher. While our home was filled with love, my parents recognized that their children would have better opportunities for education, advancement, and success in the U.S.
It has been more than a year since the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.’s (CLINIC) Religious Immigration Services (RIS) section began taking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) cases. Back on June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new process, granting relief to undocumented young people who came to the United States as children and do not have proper immigration documents. This new program allowed these young people to have work authorization and stay in the country without the threat of deportation.
There’s no question that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has touched the lives of thousands of young people and, in turn, continues to inspire activism for immigration reform, transcending communities to inform federal action. At CLINIC, we are moved by the journeys of so many DREAMers. One such inspirational young woman is Denia Perez, the nation’s first Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited DREAMer.
Left to Right: Martin Gauto, CLINIC, My-Hanh Luu, Elsa Ornelas, Sandra Molina, Oras Mohammed, and Simona Botezatu of Catholic Charities San Bernardino & Riverside Counties in California meeting on October 21, 2013 to discuss preparing for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR).