At the 10th annual Dreamers Conference hosted Feb. 3-5 through Diablo Valley College, students shared stories and experiences about the challenges they faced – and often overcame – when applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status.
Lillian Ventura, a second year sociology major at DVC, was one of the students who attended.
“I am currently applying for DACA and it has been a couple of months that I’ve been working on this,” said Ventura. “It’s been very hard.”
Pulling together all of the necessary documents to submit a successful application was difficult, she said. Her experience mirrored the challenges that thousands of people like her continue to face. “But working with people who know about this, and who are there for you, definitely makes it easier and a little less nerve-racking.”
According to Ventura, “That the biggest challenge: organizing the documents that I already have and finding new ones to make my profile more secure so I don’t get denied in the process of applying.”
In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s attempt to end the DACA program was unlawful. Its decision meant that DACA recipients not only remained protected from deportation, but still qualified for benefits such as work authorization.
Last month, on his first day as president, Joe Biden promised Obama-era DACA policy would stay put as he asked Congress to adopt legislation giving DACA recipients permanent legal status and a path to citizenship.
One of the Dreamers Conference workshops, “DACA is Back, Now What?” was hosted by Maria Dorado, an International and General student counselor and one of the directors of the PUENTE Program at DVC. Among the speakers she introduced in the workshop was Isabel Lara.
Lara has worked for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District for 18 years. A Contra Costa board member, Lara has been working with school administrators, teachers and community agencies to provide support to students and parents as they seek help applying for DACA. She said she encourages students to persevere through the long process and challenges of obtaining DACA status, and understands there may be times when they want to quit.
In response, she read a poem that she said gives her inspiration. “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible,” Lara said, and “suddenly you are doing the impossible.” The poem, which was written by Saint Francias of Assisi, is “how latinos and immigrants work,” said Lara. “We do what we need to do, every single day, little by little, and before you know it you’ve reached your goal.”
Another speaker, Denny Kasso, a staff attorney from the Immigration Institute of the Bay Area, provides free immigration legal assistance and representation to students, staff and faculty at multiple community colleges. Kasso spoke to attendees about the benefits of applying to the DACA program and gave step by step information about how to successfully apply, providing useful resources to book free consultation with her institute as well as links to the Puente Program.
DVC student Alexandra Vidal, a sophomore majoring in sociology and social justice, said she was very young when she applied to DACA, and “didn’t really understand what was going on or the process of applying.” Vidal credited a free workshop that she attended in the city where she grew up, which helped her complete the application.
Sophomore business administration major Amaia Lozano said she is also in the process of applying for DACA for the first time, and related some of the challenges she has faced. “This application process is something very new for me and my family so it has definitely been stressful,” Lozano said.
“When coming to this country, my parents never imagined that there would be such a great opportunity like DACA, so they never really saved any of my documents or information, which I now need. Thankfully, with all the help that DVC provides, the process has been a little less stressful,” she added. “My biggest worry now is being rejected.”