Local Dreamers await DACA decision

Jerrie Whiteley, Herald Democrat
Emma Chalott Barron, who is a senior at Austin College got the chance to meet First Lady Michelle Obama. She came to the U.S. at 7 with her family. (courtesy photo)

While more than 100 Dreamers where recently visiting legislators in Washington D.C. this week to support the Dream Act, some local students shared their opinions about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals-related legislation. These young people and approximately 700,000 other DACA recipients could face deportation if Congress doesn’t pass a permanent legislative solution after the Trump Administration rescinded DACA on Sept. 5. The Dream Act would provide protection from deportation and authorize work for DACA recipients.

Three local DACA recipients recently discussed their situations and what they want people to know about DACA — which allowed some young people to be eligible for a work permit and deferred action from deportation — and the people it affects.

“I have high hopes that something will happen that will allow us to stay here,” 18-year-old Marcos Salazar, a 2017 Sherman High graduate, said.

Salazar currently attends Grayson College and hopes to be a teacher. His parents brought him to America as a 3-year-old. They had work visas and are currently in the country legally. He does not have a visa, but does have DACA status.

He has two younger siblings who were born here and are citizens. And for years, he thought he was too.

“When I was nine, my grandmother told me I was born in Mexico,” he said.

At first the statement didn’t mean too much to him. Two years later, he said, Arizona passed HB 170, which allowed officers to ask anyone about their immigration status.

“My parents came here for a better life for me — so I could go to college and have a better life,” he said.

His mother works at a local factory and his father works for a local construction firm. In a couple of years, they will be able to become American citizens and they thought, as did Salazar, that DACA was the beginning of a way for their oldest child to become one too.

He said he already feels like one.

“Deep down, I feel I am an American,” Salazar said. “I stood up in those schools and pledged allegiance to that (American) flag. That is the only flag I know and that is the one flag that I respect.”

What makes one an American, he added, is valuing the country’s principles, respecting its laws and loving its people. He said he checks off all of those boxes. Emma Chalott Barron and Kenia Cantu said they share that sentiment.

Cantu also attends Grayson College and Chalott Barron is a senior at Austin College. Both women currently have legal status under DACA. But both are worried what will happen to that status if Congress doesn’t provide a path for legal citizenship for them.

One of the politicians charged with doing something about the issue is Sen. Craig Estes.

“The federal government has a Constitutional obligation to protect our borders from illegal immigration and it has performed that duty woefully,” Estes said in a prepared statement. “It is my strong hope that attention to the DACA program will prompt Congress to secure our borders. Texans have taken up this federal responsibility for far too long and should be free from it as well as repaid for the hundreds of millions of dollars already spent.”

Chalott Barron said she was 7 years old when she came to American with her older sister, mother and father. Chalott Barron’s mother had been a school teacher in Mexico. Her parents were concerned about the increasing violence and lack of opportunities in Mexico so they brought their children to the U.S. on tourist visas.

Her parents, she said, didn’t intend to stay, but they saw that the education opportunities for children would be so much greater here. So, Chalott Barron said, they decided they would stay and apply for legal citizenship. But that was expensive and time consuming and her mother and father had to work to sustain them.

“The decision was their’s and we had no say in it,” Chalott Barron said, explaining the only thing she could worry about at that age was learning the new language everyone at school spoke. “I had to work twice as hard to get ahead.”

Eventually she was able to apply for her DACA status, which allowed her to get a social security card and a driver’s license. It wasn’t easy though and it wasn’t cheap. The application cost more than $400 and has to be renewed every two years.

Paying the $400 though was worth it to know that they could make plans to complete their education, Cantu said. The 21-year-old was 4 when her parents brought her to the U.S.

She said her parents also planned to apply for legal citizenship when they brought their family into the U.S. on visas. But then her father died and her mother had to care for her two little children.

“Sometimes, you get so desperate that you just do whatever you think is best for your child at that point,” Cantu said.

She said she would hope that politicians could see that she and the thousands of others just like her might have come into this country without the proper documentation, but since then they have worked to be the very imbodiment of the American Dream they hear so much about. She said she studied hard, worked hard and has complied with all of the requirements put in front of her.

Rep. John Ratcliffe did not respond to the Herald Democrat’s request for comment on his plan to address the situation facing students like Salazar, Chalott Barron and Cantu. However, on the date that the Trump administration announced its action on DACA, Ratcliffe issued a statement.

“I support President Trump’s decision to end an unconstitutional program that was created through President Obama’s abuse of executive authority,” Ratcliffe said. “My very first action as a member of Congress was raising one hand, placing the other on the Bible, and taking an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Obama’s constitutional overreach and abuse of the separation of powers has been struck down by the courts before, and I believe DACA would be no different. The constituents I’m privileged to represent want our immigration laws properly enforced and our borders secured. I remain committed to delivering upon those goals for them.”

All three students said they wanted to come forward and speak out about their desire to remain in the U.S. for those who do not feel strong enough to do so.

Chalott Barron said she had been keeping up with the promises that President Donald Trump made about the program during his campaign and, like many others in her situation, was fearful.

“I dealt with it by being proactive and continuing to remain involved in Dallas, where I live during the summer and locally with an organization called the North Texas Dream Team, which has many rights seminars,” Chalott Barron said. “It is really a waiting game. But while we are waiting, we also continue advocating.”