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New York and Seattle-Area Young Immigrants Offer Powerful Rebuke to Donald Trump’s Dark Views of Immigrants and America

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While Local Leaders and Advocacy Efforts Continue to Speak Out for Pro-Immigrant Vision of America, Immigrants Themselves Offering Most Powerful Contrast to Trump Immigration Plans

Local leaders and advocacy organizations continue to speak up on behalf of immigrants, offering a strong pro-immigrant vision that contrasts sharply with the stated plans and views of President-elect Donald Trump. For example, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill told the Wall Street Journal, “We don’t enforce the law based on people’s immigration status … We enforce the laws based on crimes committed.”

Meanwhile, ahead of yesterday’s meeting between President-elect Trump and technology sector leaders, a letter from nearly two dozen advocacy organizations called on tech companies to refuse to participate in any effort to build a Muslim registry – a separate effort from a sign-on letter from more than 200 tech company employees who have pledged to refuse to help facilitate mass deportations or the creation of a Muslim registry.

Yet the most powerful rebuke to Trump’s depictions of immigrants and stated policy intentions remains the powerful personal testimonials being expressed by immigrants across the country. In particular, young immigrants continue to speak out about how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has transformed their lives and opportunities, while pledging their intention to fight on behalf of their parents and the larger immigrant community who face an uncertain future under a Trump presidency. Today, articles focused on New York and Seattle-area young immigrants capture the strength and courage on display and underscore why America should welcome, not reject, DACA and other efforts that provide immigrants with the opportunity to give back to the country they call home.

Liz Robbins of the New York Times highlights how a series of young immigrants in the New York-area have relied on DACA to better the lives of their families and communities and how they are adjusting to the prospect of a Trump administration:

“Vanessa Luna arrived in New York as a 10-year-old from Peru, and grew up as an undocumented immigrant. While her parents worked at cleaning jobs, she hid her status in high school until a guidance counselor helped her get into the State University of New York at Binghamton to study American history. She was a junior there when, in 2012, President Obama gave Ms. Luna — and hundreds of thousands of other young people like her— temporary permission to stay and work in the United States. She could become a teacher. ‘For the first time, I felt like this country accepted me,’ said Ms. Luna, 25, who now teaches social studies at a middle school on the Lower East Side. But now, she does not know what to think.

 … At the age of 5, Chandrapaul Latchman was brought by strangers on an airplane from Guyana to reunite with his parents on Long Island. He became student body president of Valley Stream Central High School, an honors student at Baruch College and an intern at BlackRock, the investment firm, before going to work at JPMorgan Chase. Today, at 23, he is one of the bank’s 100 credit risk analysts, assessing multimillion-dollar loans to real estate developers and entertainment companies. He knows what he would feel were Mr. Trump to cancel the program, known as DACA.

 ‘It’s a feeling of rejection,’ Mr. Latchman said. ‘Even though you tried so hard, and outworked so many people to get here, still at the end, you’re not good enough and they don’t want you,’ he said.

 … ‘We don’t want to differentiate between the good immigrants and the bad immigrants – however he chooses to qualify them,’ said Hina Naveed, 26, a registered nurse on Staten Island and a co-director of the activist group, Dream Action Coalition. ‘Instead of just working it out with the Dreamers, what I’d rather see is some clear policy in what he’s hoping to work out with immigrants in general.’ Otherwise, she said, the alternative is frightening: ‘We’ll save DACA and all their parents will be deported — who will want to stay here?’

 …Juan Carlos Pérez, 31, a math teacher at the International High School at Union Square, said he might have to return to teaching English as a second language in Queens for a small stipend or even return to Mexico, which he left at age 11. Joe Luft, the executive director of the Internationals Network for Public Schools, which operates 15 high schools in New York City that specialize in teaching new immigrants, said losing people like Mr. Pérez could adversely affect the students who had come to confide in him. ‘I really fear what that does to their sense of hope, which can be tenuous to students anyway,’ Mr. Luft said.”

And Lornet Turnbell of the Seattle online outlet Crosscut highlights several young immigrants in Washington state who explain how DACA has changed their lives and reflect on their uncertain outlook under the next administration:

 “Simon Mendoza-Moreno’s first day on the job, serving as a physician assistant at a community clinic in Wenatchee, began uneventfully on Election Day. At home that evening, the 25-year-old grabbed a bottle of wine and sat down to watch the election results but grew alarmed as the early numbers began rolling in. He said he went to bed that night, even before a Donald Trump victory was certain, hoping a new day would bring a different outcome. That Mendoza-Moreno, whose parents brought him illegally to the U.S. as a baby, is able to pursue a career in medicine because of an executive order President Obama issued four years ago which President-elect Trump has said he’ll undo. The provision, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), protects young people like Mendoza-Moreno from the threat of deportation and gives them access to jobs previously inaccessible to them.

‘DACA opened doors to a career and a new life for me,’ Mendoza-Moreno said. ‘There would have been no other way. It gave me hope that I could pursue my dream of practicing medicine and give back to my community.’ For Mendoza-Moreno, a rare bilingual/bi-cultural health provider at Columbia Valley Community Health where more than half of the patients are Spanish-speaking migrants, Trump’s victory was like a crushing blow. He was on the brink of tears as he walked into a staff meeting the next morning, but was immediately reassured when he saw that every face in the room mirrored the devastation he felt. ‘I think you have to have certain progressive values to work in the kinda place we do and serve the community we serve,’ he said. ‘We all agreed we want to stay focused and strong for our patients; they are the most vulnerable, the most anxious and afraid. That’s how I was able to find strength.’

… Calling DACA a “moral imperative and a national necessity,” the University of Washington, Seattle University and other Washington colleges have joined 425 others nationwide in issuing a statement urging leaders to retain it. In addition, several big-city mayors — including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray — have cited a potential loss of $9 billion in tax contributions over the next four years should DACA be ended. They have also asked Trump to retain DACA, at least until Congress is able to provide a more permanent fix.

… NWIRP’s [Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Executive Director Jorge] Barón said he’s been encouraged by the courageousness of these young people, despite the looming cloud. ‘A lot of DACA folks are feeling energized and defiant in some ways because even though there’s uncertainty, they feel they won’t go back into the shadows,’ Barón said. ‘They are prepared to fight for this.’

These young people include folks like Ana Andrade Lara, who knew early on that picking apples was not in her future. Her parents would take her and her siblings with them to the fields when they were smaller, she said, as a deterrent. ‘They wanted a better life for us,’ she said. ‘It’s why they came to the U.S. They showed us the ultimate sacrifice.’

Andrade was brought to the U.S. when she was five. She was in the 11th grade when she learned he was undocumented and realized right away how severely it limited her options. So she began sharing her story — with teachers, other students, school board members. It led her to find a mentor who became a wonderful guide as she moved through high school and later college, blazing a trail as the first in her family to do so.

Andrade yearned to attend a four-year college, but the scholarships she could qualify for weren’t enough to pay the tuition. She enrolled instead in Walla Walla Community College. It was the advocacy of students like her, telling their stories to policymakers, which led the Washington State Legislature in 2014 to pass a measure allowing DACA students to qualify for state financial aid. Such assistance made it possible for her to transfer to Washington State University, graduating in May and landing a job as a facilities coordinator at MOD Pizza’s corporate office in Bellevue.

‘‘I love my job and I know I wouldn’t have had it without the connections I made in sharing my story, taking risks and trying to do better for my parents,’ she said. ‘Because of DACA, we can repay our parents,’ she said. ‘This is more than just the papers for us.’”