We Are Americans, Revisited: The Dreamers, five years later

By Maya Rhodan and Emma Talkoff
KIPP Through College counselor Tania Chairez from KIPP Colorado

Read the full article at TIME.com >

In 2012, TIME worked with journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas to share the story of America’s Dreamers—undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. The day the story was published, President Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has shielded some 800,000 immigrants from deportation and freed them to take jobs, get an education and live the American dream they’d always claimed as their own. Since that time, many of the 30 immigrants who appeared on TIME’s cover have gone on and finished school, started families, traveled abroad and become engaged citizens. One, Roy Naim, chose a different path and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for possessing child pornography.

Now, their future is in doubt. There are reports that President Trump may end the program, despite repeated statements during the campaign that his immigration crackdown would not extend to Dreamers. TIME got back in touch with 15 of the 30 people who appeared on the cover to see how their lives have changed since DACA and what they are at risk of losing if the program ends. Some did not want to be included; others simply didn’t respond. Here are the stories they shared.

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‘YOU CAN’T REALLY HIDE’

Tania Chairez

After stints as a teacher and community organizer, Tania Chairez settled in Colorado, where she advises college students who are navigating the immigration system. Right now she’s extra busy—in September, she’ll be working with KIPP Colorado Schools to help students with DACA in their pursuits in higher education and the workforce. As part of her work, Chairez makes “know your rights” emergency plans with parents and students—worst-case-scenario outlines for how a family will survive if some or all of them are deported. She’s made one for her own family too.

How have things changed since the election?

I think one of the biggest things that has changed even since the election has been just the fear in our community. The sad part for me is I left Arizona trying to leave that anti-immigrant rhetoric, and we came to Colorado thinking that it would be better. But now it’s like Arizona is everywhere, it’s nationwide. I’m seeing a lot of the experiences that my family and I went through in Phoenix here in Colorado.

Have people in your community had to change their behavior?

All of it. There are families that I’ve talked to who are terrified to take their kids to school, and so even just dropping them off at a bus stop is scary for them, and they’ll take a different route every time they drop their kids off just to see if that makes a difference. Here in Denver, we have a very big immigration agent presence in our court system, so for anyone who’s trying to fulfill their probation requirements, or DUI classes, domestic violence classes, whatever kind of thing you have to do in the court, people are scared to go to the court because ICE agents are very likely to be there. We’ve even warned schools about this, and we’ve let them know that if they have any undocumented students who are undergoing truancy charges, to see if they can avoid the court systems, because it’s not just giving them a ticket like it would be for any other kid. It’s like giving the family a deportation sentence.

What’s it like making emergency plans with families?

It’s terrifying. I had to do a “know your rights” training for little children, for a second grader and sixth grader and a seventh grader. I had to transform all my materials to child-friendly language and have them draw pictures and things. At eight years old, they have to be thinking about emergency plans and who they can open the door for.

They reacted very much like young students would, where they would keep asking questions like, “Can’t we just hide? Can’t we run away?” I had to remind them like, no, you can’t really hide, you can’t run, you can’t lie, that’s not how this works. It was also frustrating to see that they were having to think about going to counseling. Those students have to be watching their back every single day, every single moment, and every time their dad goes to school and drops them off, they don’t know if he’s going to be there when they get back.

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