“Every time my mother is five minutes late, I worry she has been deported,” said a 9-year-old girl protesting on the state Capitol steps. Instead of worrying about grades, boys or television shows, the threat of deportation plagues undocumented immigrants and their American-born children.
The fates and fears of many “dreamers” and the rest of the undocumented community are again being balanced in the state legislature.
In what started as a Senate bill largely based on cracking the whip on sanctuary cities, undocumented immigrants found themselves at the mercy of state representatives. Prior to the bill’s hearing, many amendments were added directly attacking the undocumented community.
Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), “effectively deputizes state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws,” said Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, Austin immigration attorney. This bill creates a state mandate agencies would have to follow, which no organization on or off campus would be able to combat. Failure to follow would result in a revocation of state funding.
Dolores, whose identity has been changed to preserve anonymity, was brought to the United States as a toddler like many Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients or “dreamers.” Both of Dolores’s parents left upper-middle-class jobs in Mexico in favor of work in the U.S. and better opportunities for their children.
DACA, according to the Student Aid for Undocumented Students outline, is the name used for a process that was announced by the Secretary of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012. People who came to the United States at a young age and also met several key guidelines, may contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, to request consideration for deferred action.
Deferred action does not provide an individual with lawful status, but recipients may obtain work authorization. All immigrants hope for a chance but with the rise of ICE agents and the recruitment of law enforcement offers into round-ups many are filled with fear.
Diana Arévalo, state representative of District 116 fears that should the bill pass, the relationship between communities and law enforcement officers will begin to deteriorate.
“At the end of the day, people signed up to be law enforcement officers. You didn’t sign up to become immigration officers,” said Arévalo.
Rapport is important because police are only as effective as the information they obtain—especially in a campus environment. Lincoln-Goldfinch, gave the example of a potential victim of sexual assault, afraid of turning to law enforcement officials because of his or her immigration status.
“We enforce local and state laws,” said Investigator Rod Manzanares of the Texas State University Police Department (UPD). While this is a blanket answer for mandate enforcement, UPD has assured me in past conversations it has and will continue to foster a helpful environment for individuals, regardless of immigration status.
This is not just a student issue by any means. Faculty, staff and administration across the state and country will all face questionable futures with upcoming legislation. However, organizations and on-campus advocacy groups hope to offer support and a voice for anyone who might need it.
“Anything we can do, we will do,” said Dr. Margarita Arellano, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. While financial aid is distributed on a need basis, the Dean of Students Office functions primarily to create an environment in which people, regardless of immigration status, can seek support.
Through the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, outreach and advocacy groups such as the Hispanic Policy Network and Student Community of Progressive Empowerment hope to do the same for the undocumented community. The organizations are also pushing issues concerning DACA students and undocumented persons.
“I’m worried DACA will be taken away from us and we will be left without any documentation,” said Dolores.
Like most DACA students, Dolores fears her status will be taken away from her should pieces of legislation like SB 4 pass. She lives in fear of deportation in addition to worrying about grades.
SB 4 is attacking the trust undocumented people have in their government and law enforcement officials. The American Civil Liberties Union website states the “fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, regardless of immigration status.”
The adoption of SB 4 would enforce immigration policies by fostering fear amongst minority groups, which can be largely attributed to the campaign rhetoric of President Donald Trump.
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” said Trump at a campaign rally.
CNN reports as many as 50,000 Irish undocumented immigrants are living in the United States. They are often spared the discriminatory taunts and threats Central and South American immigrants and any other colored minority groups face on a sometimes daily basis.
Black, brown or white, immigration is something integral to our country since its foundation. Immigrants are too often misunderstood, stereotyped and underrepresented.
Immigration to America will continue to be one of the hardest journeys an individual can take due to the dangers and trials migrants experience on their journey: from navigating the “new age underground railroad” of border towns and avoiding the horrors of human trafficking, to parents sacrificing their own livelihoods for their children.
Years before my great-grandmother’s death, she obtained a piece of paper affirming she was a U.S. citizen. My mother and grandmother recall my great-grandmother being ecstatic about knowing the presidents on the coins and bills, because she was proud to be an American.
Being an American is not an easy or cheap process, and most immigrants know this reality. My grandmother, and others like her, took jobs when and where she could find them to support her family. The road to citizenship and family prosperity is long, arduous and filled with pot-holes.
Most immigrants simply hope for the best.
SB 4 is currently pending motion in committee. Call your state representatives and tell them what you think. Read the bill and talk to your friends and family about it.
Use your privilege and help those with everything to lose.
– Jakob R. Rodriguez is a journalism freshman