‘There is so much fear and anxiety’; as court decides DACA’s fate, a community mobilizes

In the courtyard of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Downtown Long Beach on Monday evening, dozens of congregants gathered to hear a revelation from one of their pastors.

“I was 7 years old when I crossed into the United States,” Nancy Frausto, the church’s associate pastor, said. “My parents, who are here tonight, did it because they wanted a better life for me and my brother. They wanted to be able to give us an opportunity.”

The 35-year-old said she and her family ran in the middle of the night, up and down the mountains between Mexico and the United States, hiding from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Today, Frausto is one of about 700,000 young undocumented immigrants protected from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA.

Called Dreamers, they are teachers, lawyers, actors and other professionals paying taxes and contributing to society.

“We adopted this country as our own,”Frausto said. “Home is here.”

But the program is at risk of disappearing under the Trump administration. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments about President Donald Trump’s attempt to end it. A decision in the case is expected in spring 2020.

In light of the hearing, Frausto organized a candlelight prayer vigil Monday night for those who once again find themselves unsure of their future.

“There is so much fear and anxiety right now for all of us,” Frausto said. “Most of us don’t know if tomorrow we will be picked up [by ICE agents]. That’s what we’re dealing with.”

A woman holds a photo of a DACA recipient during a candlelight prayer vigil at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. The vigil was held on the eve of the Supreme Court’s scheduled hearing of arguments regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

The event also doubled as a fundraiser for recipients who cannot afford the renewal fees.

Currently, DACA recipients pay $495 to renew their status every two years, but that may go up to $765. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last week announced a proposal to increase fees for those applying for citizenship or seeking asylum as well as the DACA program.

The fundraiser is being organized by housing activists Gaby Hernandez and Maribel Cruz of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition.

A banner in support of the DACA program hangs in front of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy of Nancy Frausto.

The two are DACA recipients as well and know how difficult it is to pay such fees, Cruz said. Rising rent, stagnant wages and medical emergencies are just some obstacles that make it difficult to save up hundreds of dollars.

“We know the importance of it because we were once there and we just hope that we can help as many people as possible,” said Cruz, a Mexican immigrant who has lived in Long Beach since age 2.

The pair started the fundraiser two weeks ago. They have so far helped five individuals. Help will be prioritized to Long Beach residents, but no one will be turned away, they said.

Donations can also be sent through Venmo via the username @fundDACALBC.

For DACA recipients currently enrolled at Cal State Long Beach, the campus covers renewal fees at its CSULB Dream Success Center. It is also one of multiple Cal State Universities selected to have attorneys available for legal help.

Earlier this week, the center also began offering healing circles in anticipation of the Supreme Court hearing on DACA, said Yarazet Cardenas, who works as a student assistant at the center.

“We’re going to support our students in any way we can,” Cardenas said.

 

At Long Beach City College, officials have also planned several mental health workshops at both its campuses, with additional support planned to coincide with the Supreme Court verdict next spring, according to LBCC spokeswoman Stacey Toda.

While the college’s LBCC Dream Center, which opened this fall, does not offer financial assistance, it does work closely with social service agency Centro CHA and the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, she said.

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. Growing up as one of six kids in the working-class immigrant suburb of South Gate, she was taught the importance of civic engagement and to show compassion for others. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015. An avid Harry Potter fan, Stephanie now lives in Bixby Knolls with her boyfriend and their bearded dragon, Austin.
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