Del. State Dreamers fear deportation following Trump DACA announcement

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA chant slogans and hold signs while joining a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA chant slogans and hold signs while joining a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Dreamers in Delaware are concerned after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA.

When Kevin Gutierrez was 8 years old, his mother brought him and his brother to the U.S., despite his father’s wishes for them to stay home in El Salvador.

He said his mother risked everything to escape violence and provide a better life for her sons.

But the Trump administration announced the end of a program that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as children, Gutierrez said he’s worried his mother’s efforts will go to waste.

“I haven’t checked my phone just yet. I don’t want to check it, because I know the person who will take it the hardest will be my mom, because she risked it all for us to be here today, so I think all her hard work and all her risk to be here and to be taken away, she would be the one who’s going to take it the hardest, and I’m trying not to think about it honestly,” he said.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, is an Obama-era program that provides work permits so young adults known as “Dreamers” can stay in the U.S.

Dreamers in Delaware say they now fear deportation following Trump’s recent action.

As the decision was announced Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, met several Dreamers, including Gutierrez, who attend Delaware State University in Dover. There are 75 enrolled Dreamers on the historically black college. The students are on a scholarship provided by TheDream.US, an organization that provides scholarships to exceptional Dreamers.

“One of the reasons people come here form Central America is because their lives are miserable, and the reason their lives are miserable is because of our addiction to drugs, and they send drugs and we send money and guns, and money and guns are used to create havoc and misery. And they try to get out of the misery and want to come here,” Carper said.

“We have tens of thousands of job vacancies in this state where employers are not able to find someone willing and able to do the work. We can do something about that. But sending these people home to homes where they’ve never [been back to] after having grown up here all their lives, it doesn’t make much sense.”

Gutierrez, a freshman at the university, said he fears losing all the opportunities he’s received through DACA.

“My heart dropped,” he said. “You know, it’s what gave us the opportunity to be here today, it’s what allowed my family to start their company, allowed my cousin to get his house, allow me to get my first car, so for that to be taken away it means my license be taken away, my work permits taken away, it means I can’t afford a small amount of gas, I can’t afford this, so it hurts—it hurts.”

Freshman Itzel Serrano said she and he family are hoping for the best, but have been anxious about something like this ever since Trump was elected.

“During the election we were very skeptical he was going to be elected, but once he was it really changed our mindsets—it is scary—just seeing what will go on in the future with him being the president and him openly saying things of that nature against immigrants,” she said.

Yulma Lopez, a sophomore at the university, said she fears deportation if a police officer pulls her over. She also worries about her mother, who will be devastated if DACA ends.

“She was very happy I came to college here at Delaware State—I’m the eldest of four children, I’m the only daughter, being here was the biggest opportunity we could have gotten in the family,” Lopez said.

“My second brother is 18 years old, he has DACA as well, so for us it’s a tremendous deal, we’re going to be unstable if we lose the drivers license or ability to work. He is only working full-time right now—he didn’t get the ability to get into college like I did—so he’s just working, and if he loses that he won’t be able to work and help the income and help protect the family.”

Carper said he hopes the President will agree to compromise with Congress to keep Dreamers in the U.S.

“What I hope is there will be an outcry across the country, and I hope there will be a real realization that America has a lot of stake in the future of these people,” he said.

Carper was not the only Delaware Democrat to denounce the announcement. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, and several state leaders also released statements of their disapproval.

Gutierrez said he’s hopeful the government will come together to find a compromise that protects Dreamers.

“We’re not like what the president said about us, we’re not ‘those types of people.’ We’re people impacting in a good way,” he said. “We have people here who are wanting to be vets, wanting to be doctors, who are lawyers, who are wanting to inform people as well. We’re here to make an impact, and it’s a good one, and I think they’re going to realize we’re a blessing and we’re dreaming big.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.