Community forum seeks to calm fears of local Dreamers after DACA demise

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Christopher DeVargas

Members of the local community gather at the East Las Vegas Community Center to participate in an open forum regarding the accouncement that President Trump is rescinding DACA, Tuesday Sept. 5, 2017.

Wed, Sep 6, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Speaking about what most terrifies her — immigration authorities knocking on her door, hauling her away and deporting her to Mexico where she knows no one — Erika Rivera breaks down.

“I have kids and I’m scared,” Rivera said. “I had to cross the border as a 9-year-old to come here — growing up thinking that this was my place, and it turned out it wasn’t.

“I was not asked about being brought here,” she added. “Our only crime is to (have been) brought here without us knowing. Our only crime is that we were not born here.”

Rivera — a medical student and beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the White House placed on a six-month expiration track — spoke at a DACA information forum in an east valley recreation center Tuesday night, hours after federal officials made the announcement.

DACA is the Barack Obama-era temporary amnesty for residents who were brought to the U.S. as children, which gave the undocumented residents the opportunity to come out of the shadows and obtain working permits — and protection from deportation.

Rivera was one of the those worried who stood up to ask a question.

And she did with tears in her eyes. Would federal authorities — with the information obtained from background checks conducted on so-called “Dreamers" — be able to use that data to identify and pick up immigrants from their homes if a new safeguard is not implemented?

There is no guarantee, she was told.

There are more than 800,000 Dreamers nationally, including up to 20,000 in Nevada, whose future is uncertain.

To show solidarity and quell fears, lawyers, elected officials, advocates spoke to the Dreamers and other attendees at the East Las Vegas Community Center.

Resource tables staffed by Nevada higher education representatives and legal aid centers were available Tuesday night, as well as consultations with immigration attorneys.

At the beginning of the event, the crowd faced a military veteran and then the American flag. “Can you all stand? Because you all are Americans,” the man said.

And they did, enthusiastically reciting the pledge of allegiance.

Later, Astrid Silva, a prominent advocate and Dreamer, asked everyone to put down their phones and cameras.

She then asked for her fellow DACA recipients to stand. At least two dozen young people did. Guaranteeing that they are not alone, she then asked everyone else to stand. Loud applause ensued.

One by one, speakers took the stage.

Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin said, “We belong here. As a fourth-generation Chicano, I don’t take it for granted, neither do you.”

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Michael Kagan said about immigration law: “What’s just and what’s law are often not the same thing. And what’s logic and what’s law is not the same thing.

“This is not a good day,” he said, adding that deportations in his family in the 1920s have left scars on his loved ones. “I wasn’t there for them, but I wanted to make sure that I was there” for somebody else’s family member.

Nevada Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz spoke about fixing a broken immigration system and making sure laws unfavorable to immigrants don’t make it into Nevada.

State Sen. Yvanna Cancela also was there, as were representatives of U.S. Sens. Dean Heller and Catherine Cortez-Masto, and Reps. Ruben Kihuen and Dina Titus, all vowing support for DACA and a legislative solution.

There are still many unanswered questions on what exactly will happen if protection for DACA recipients ends March 5, 2018, or if it'll get to that point.

A Politico poll released Tuesday showed that the majority of Americans — 84 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and about 70 percent of Republicans — oppose deporting DACA recipients.

Capitol Hill leaders from both parties have expressed support for DACA or a legislative solution. President Donald Trump said, "I am not going to just cut DACA off but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act."

The support for Dreamers extended to Las Vegas.

Cecilia Rivera Ibarra, 23, and Diana Macias Angel, UNLV students who run the blog "Memoirs of an Immigrant," were there to support friends, many of whom they said benefitted from DACA.

Alexis Romero, 27, and Angelica Ruiz, also UNLV students, decided to attend after Romero received a message from the American Civil Liberties Union.

They spoke about feeling heartbroken and sad but also empowered to do more, they said.

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