Valley Dreamers, Families, Activists React to DACA Announcement
SAN JUAN – Before the announcement was even made official, panic started setting in at La Union Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE. The phones started ringing as soon as employees arrived to work Tuesday morning.
“It has not stopped ringing. People who just heard the news asking questions,” explained Juanita Valdez-Cox.
Valdez-Cox is the director of LUPE, the valley’s most vocal immigrant rights group.
She said today's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, announcement shook families all over the Rio Grande Valley.
“We have about 28,000 of those dreamers here in the valley. They are employed. They have a work permit. They have a driver’s license. They have a social security number,” she said.
Many of those Valley dreamers, or siblings of dreamers, are also students.
“I came here when I was two-years-old. I'm 19 right now, so 16 years here, I don't know anything about over there,” Briseyda Reyes said.
Reyes is an accounting sophomore at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She was born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
“I'm not going to lie, it's kind of scary to think that I might get deported,” she said.
Reyes works two jobs to pay for school.
“And a lot of people say things are handed to us, like ‘Oh you're a Dreamer you have everything handed to you,’ but I think we have to work harder. Like for school, we don't really get the same opportunities because a lot of scholarships you have to be a citizen,” she said.
Reyes just renewed her DACA status, so she'll be protected from deportation at least until she graduates.
Adrian Guerrero is graduate student and a U.S. citizen, also at UTRGV.
“Three of my siblings have DACA and I'm afraid for them,” he said.
He fears his family could be torn apart. His siblings were ages five, 10 and 11 when they arrived in Texas.
“This is what they know. Like there's no other country that they know. They learned to love this country,” Guerrero said.
Both students said, though nervous about what the future holds, they're encouraged by the support from their fellow students.
“If we don't stand up for our peers in our community, who is going to do it,” said UTRGV freshman Brandon Garcia.
At LUPE, dreamers and their families packed a banquet hall Tuesday night to discuss their rights and what to expect moving forward.
“This community cannot be quiet any longer,” Valdez-Cox said. “And it's not just about DACA youth. This hurts all of our community.”
Dreamers, their families and friends and activists alike all hope congress acts soon before any families are devastated.