Coming DACA decision sows anxiety in Ventura County

Tom Kisken
September 1, 2017
Ventura County Star

David Gonzalez felt overwhelmed.

The 22-year-old Oxnard man worried Friday about reports that President Donald Trump may end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that provides work permits and deportation protection to Gonzalez and nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

About 7,000 Ventura County residents may be covered or at least eligible for the program, according to the Future Leaders of America organization.  

Late on Friday, a White House official announced that Trump's decision on the controversial program is expected Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Gonzalez watched CNN, planned a Friday night demonstration in Oxnard's Plaza Park to support DACA and battled a migraine headache caused by the uncertainty of his future.

"Your life can change immediately," said Gonzalez, who attends CSU Northridge and works in an immigration lawyer's office. "I wouldn't have the job I have right now without DACA."

It's possible that Trump, who has expressed admiration for Dreamers but also made campaign pledges to end the program, will pull the plug but allow participants to complete their two-year work permits.

"That's a reasonable approach," said Joe Guzzardi, national media director for the Santa Barbara-based Californians for Population Stabilization. It would avoid the massive disruption caused by immediately interrupting work permits but it would also end a program that has ignited controversy since the 2012 executive order by then-President Barack Obama that created it.

"It was never congressionally approved," Guzzardi said. "... It deserves to end."

People protected by the program worry about their jobs and the possibility of eventual deportation. A woman who asked that her name not be used said she worried information she used in her DACA application could become a tool used to pursue undocumented family members.

"I'm scared for me, my family and my parents," she said.

At California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, leaders are trying to gather up-to-date legal advice and are also helping connect students with lawyers, said Matthew Ward, vice president of enrollment management and marketing. He'll meet with Dreamers on Tuesday with messages including assurance that federal actions on DACA won't impact financial assistance offered through the California Dream Act.

Mike Stoker, a Trump supporter from Carpinteria connected to the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform, said he wouldn't speculate on what might happen with DACA. But he contends the ultimate solution should come through comprehensive reform that includes work permits for farm laborers and other undocumented immigrants with jobs.

Stoker believes Trump would support such reform.

Natalia Ramirez's work permit through DACA runs until February 2019. She's co-owner of a Ventura bookkeeping business and is working toward a degree in accounting at California Lutheran. She's waiting for the dust to settle on DACA before deciding how to react.

Gonzalez said the next step Dreamers take depends on the specifics of Trump's action. But if the possibility of deportation increases, people could go as far as seeking sanctuary in churches, he said.

As far as his future, Gonzalez thinks he'll end up being an immigration lawyer with or without DACA.

"We’ll be able to succeed," he said. "It would just be much more difficult without it."

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