Hours after the Trump Administration decided to scrap an Obama-era policy protecting qualifying undocumented youth from deportation, hundreds took to the streets of Santa Ana in protest. Organized by Orange County Immigrant Youth United (which writes a weekly online column for this infernal rag), yesterday evening's "Undocumented and Unafraid" march began at Sasscer Park and amplified the voices of those most affected by the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA.
"Today, I woke up and felt the collective pain of 800,000 young immigrants," said Jose Servin, OCIYU's communications and media organizer, in reference to DACA recipients. "Now we stand together as an immigrant community to push for real change."
Since 2012, the policy granted undocumented youth permits to work and study, provided they met certain criteria including passing a criminal background check. DACA came after a wave of grassroots undocumented youth activism forced former President Barack Obama's hand. After Trump's move to end the program, activists promised a renewed social movement.
"DACA was a victory for and by the community," said Faby Jacome, OCIYU's program coordinator and deportation defense organizer, through a bullhorn. "We put all legislators on notice that we will not continue to hide in silence while [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] rips apart our families." Activists defiantly marched down Fourth Street afterward without a permit while chanting "No DACA, no peace!" They briefly blocked the intersection of Fourth and Main Street to denounce hipster gentrification along with la migra. A Santa Ana police helicopter whirled overhead, but the march continued without incident, growing by the hundreds at every turn.
"DACA was a way to fund our education and pay our bills," Lupita, an undocumented organizer and DACA recipient, told the Weekly. "With that said, we, at times, got too comfortable with renewing it every two years. I feel that now it's time to see a new phase in our movement that's more inclusive to all immigrants, not just Dreamers who people think are 'worthy' to stay here."
The Trump Administration is urging DACA recipients to use the time they have left to prepare for self-deportation, but yesterday's protests showed they aren't going down without a fight, one with many local fronts.
A key stop along the two-and-a-half mile route came at Men's Central Jail where activists railed against Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. OC is the sole county in California that still has a 287(g) agreement giving deputies certain immigration enforcement authorities. "Hutchens, listen! Immigration is not your business," they chanted before promising to return. The march ended by sunset at the Santa Ana Federal Building (where migra parks every morning) with a spirited rally and speak-out where undocumented youth pledged to fight for their parents who brought them here.
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Away from the crowd's cheers and supportive honks from cars passing by, other undocumented youth pondered their post-DACA futures. OCIYU is encouraging people to donate money online towards the last round of DACA renewals for permits expiring between now and March of next year. After that, what comes next is uncertain."It's another setback," a Santa Ana DACA recipient told the Weekly, requesting anonymity. The young man renewed his DACA work permit three times since the program started but won't be able to once it expires in 2019. He finds hope in Santa Ana's historic pro-amnesty marches that drew over 30,000 a decade ago.
"As santaneros, we stand up for our people," he said. "We need to start again, whatever it takes."