Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Guest blogger: Erika Landa Sarmiento, graduate student, Migration Studies Program, University of San Franciso
I am an undocumented scholar activist who was brought to the United States at the age of two. We left behind our family, our home, and our language in Puebla, Mexico. We settled in Los Angeles a city filled with immigrants like me and of deep history of community organizing. Like many undocumented youths I attended public school and exceled in academics, graduating top in my class.
In 2013 when I was graduating from high school, I was told I would not be given the same opportunity as my fellow classmates to attend a four year university. It was thanks to my high school counselor Victor Aguilera that I was able to connect with the few who had found ways into four-year universities with the few resources we had available then. Today I am graduating with a Masters in Migration Studies from the University of San Francisco and will be pursuing a doctoral program.
My goal is to be able to teach Chicana/o Studies and serve as a tool towards liberation of the soul, identity, and spirit to other undocumented generations. My experience in these classes as an undocumented student in college helped me to understand that my status was not my fault or something that I could have changed, to accept that mama needed to migrate. Teaching others about the political campaigns, draconian legislations, and policy that have been implemented for years is my way of giving back to the generation who taught me. Through academia I intend to build on the pedagogy of liberation, resistance, and advocacy.
I remember the first time DACA was threatened in 2017, I was working as an intern for the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and leading the student organization on campus Channel Islands dreamers. I was in charge of holding space and providing an understanding of what the attacks meant for us. For the first time I was unable to keep my guard up from my own community and shared that same fear with them, privately we shed tears and cuentos.
This day non-DACA recipients held space for us even after we had failed to also exalt their stories and voices in our advocacy and organizing. We had failed them in being part of a movement that left out anyone who was not a DACA, Dream Act, AB-540 holder. It tore me apart to hear them share stories of how what we feared had been and continues to be their everyday life and how unlike us they had no possible light at the end of the tunnel.
Today there are over 640,000 DACA recipients nationwide and roughly about 200,000 of those are on the front line of fighting COVID. In a study conducted by the Center for American Progress, results showed that here in California itself we hold the biggest number of DACA recipients with most arriving in 1998. Texas is second with recipients arriving mostly in 2000. In order to understand why these two states have the highest number of DACA recipients and why the years of migration are only two years apart, a historical analysis can be conducted. To fight against the Trump Administration, we must look at history and what were the things that work and those that didn’t. We must learn and not repeat the same mistakes.
This administration has tormented and enabled fear into our immigrant communities. With policies such as the extension of public charge which harms any who is applying for a visa or is currently in the process. This new policy has caused fear across the entire immigrant community and fear to receive public benefits, such as testing for COVID has risen. Nonprofit organizations and other entities have been doing the job of the government by informing the community of what this policy actually means and entails.
Immigrant communities have suffered and have been traumatized by family separation in the past presidential administration and the recent one. Barrack Obama has received support from the Latino community and immigrant communities due to the fact that the DACA executive was put in place during his presidency. But I want to remind everyone that DACA was made possible due to the work immigrant communities, nothing was given to any of us. This fight has been led by and for our community with the support of allies and accomplices.
Ending DACA would cost the economy a great deal, as the research carried out by the Center for American Progress shows. DACA recipients alone pay $5.6 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state taxes. In California, DACA recipients are crucial as we move into the next phases to reopen our state recovering from COVID. More than 56,000 DACA recipients serve as nurses, medical assistants, and personal aides. Although this administration continues to enable fear in us, we continue to show up for what we regard as our country too. We are America.
Let’s continue to show up for DACA recipients and all immigrant communities. We must continue to fight alongside them as only they know what is truly needed. The path towards higher education should be a path for all, especially for those who have been brought here as children.