Producer's Note: This summer marked the 2 year renewal period for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA applicants. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services reports a total of 638,054, requests (more than a half million) since President Obama’s announcement of DACA on June 15, 2012. However, according to the Migration Policy Institute, 45% of the estimated 1.2 million eligible immigrants have yet to apply.
Richmond Pulse caught up with Yaquelin Valencia, a community organizer, student and recipient of DACA. Yaquelin arrived to the United States at the age of 2 from Mexico and has never returned to see her parent’s homeland. Prior to DACA, from 2010-2012 following her graduation from Kennedy High Yaquelin lived in the U.S as an undocumented American. She worked many jobs to support her family and her efforts to attend community college, which often hit a financial challenge. Yaquelin was also involved with local Richmond organization CCISCO, or Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organizing as a volunteer. When DACA was announced, Yaquelin joined Community Leaders Organizing Undocumented Dreamers or (CLOUD) to support outreach efforts. Her intensive work and organizing had Yaquelin driving throught the East Bay, often placing her in a state of paranoia of being stopped on the road.
In December of 2012, Yaquelin applied to DACA for herself. Her application was approved in 2013, and shortly Yaquelin obtained a drivers license. In addition to returning to community college, she now felt safe to drive and continue her work and organizing in the East Bay. Yaquelin is a student at Contra Costa College, and is an active board member for CCISCO.
The last two years of DACA have given Yaquelin a sense of security when driving and the ability to return to school. While the renewal period is currently open, the future of immigration reform remains uncertain. President Obama and the United States Congress has yet to act on any movement towards immigration reform leaving DACA recipients to wonder what will happen in 2016, and whether DACA remains a viable option to gaining citizenship or just a temporary piecemeal offer.
This summer marked the 2 year renewal period for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA applicants. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services reports a total of 638,054, requests (more than a half million) since President Obama’s announcement of DACA on June 15, 2012. However, according to the Migration Policy Institute, 45% of the estimated 1.2 million eligible immigrants have yet to apply.
Manuel Martinez, 18, is a student at San Francisco State University and a Richmond resident. Manuel arrived with his family to the United States at the age of one. Throughout his life, Manuel and his family have lived fearing the police and any government authorities that could potentially know of their undocumented status. Manuel first realized he was undocumented in the 7th grade after the deportation of a family member. In his interview, Manuel describes how prior to DACA he wasn’t motivated to succeed in school. He figured higher education was not a viable option and instead believed he would join his father in construction. In September 2012, Manuel applied to DACA. With the support from his mother, Manuel completed his application and waited anxiously for the notice. For the remaining 2012 year, Manuel was nervous- paranoid of the thought that U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement now had his information.
On January 22nd, 2013 Manuel received DACA and began to turn around his school progress. By the end of his senior year June 2014, Manuel accepted his admission to San Francisco State University where he will be focusing on computer engineering. Now nearing his 2 year mark with DACA, Manuel says although he has benefited from DACA especially in regards to higher education, he still does not feel a complete American. Many rights and services are not applicable to him such as scholarships and federal aid. Manuel feels frustrated that members of his home family were denied from DACA and remain undocumented- waiting for a complete immigration reform.
A new facility in North Richmond will offer women coming home from incarceration a stable living environment, a chance to begin rebuilding their life and for some the opportunity to reunite with their children.
The Naomi House is a two unit duplex which will operate as part of a one year transitional housing program for up to six recently incarcerated women and their children.