‘It will be harder, but this will just give me more strength’: DACA participant says Trump won’t stall her dreams
Karla Estrada, a 26-year-old DACA participant, always knew the program was temporary. She’d braced herself for it and expected today’s decision. Still, she said it “hurt” Tuesday when Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration was rescinding the program that gave Estrada and many like her the “taste of the American life.”
“It was an illusion. It was like when you’re in the desert and you’re thirsty and drink from an oasis and then you realize it’s not real. It feels like DACA was an oasis when we were dehydrated in the middle of the dessert and now that illusion is gone.”
Estrada, who lives in Los Angeles where she works at a law firm, said the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gave her the opportunity to work legally in a steady job related to her career. Estrada was brought illegally to the U.S. when she was 5 years old.
Her work prospects are now uncertain; her work permit expires in October of next year.
Before she was accepted into the DACA program, she had to move from job to job and contended with low pay.
The end of DACA, however, doesn’t mean Estrada’s ambitions will come to a halt.
“I’m still going to study for my LSAT and take the test and apply to law school and, if I get accepted, I’m not going to stop pursuing my career,” she said. “I will go on with my life. It will be harder and more nerve-racking, but I’m going to be OK. Personally, I think I’m very resilient. DACA does not define me.”
Los Angeles has one of the deepest connections to the program because of its long history with immigration. Los Angeles County alone has the highest number of immigrants — 123,000 — who are immediately eligible for the program. Many of the young immigrant activists who staged sit-ins and acts of civil disobedience, which eventually helped lead to Obama’s program, also hail from the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Estrada said the DACA decision will likely rile up immigrant youth who were not active in the movement because they benefited from the program.
“Now that it’s over, I think we can start actually fighting for something that is more permanent for ourselves and for the people who were not eligible for DACA,” she said. “This time we’ll do it right. We made a mistake in the past, only fighting for the young people. We are valuable, yet but not more than the rest of the population.”
She said it’s time to think beyond DACA.
Victoria Sandoval, 22, left, of Los Angeles, a DACA recipient, is consoled by sister Maria Sandoval, 20, a U.S. citizen, while protesters gathered at City Hall to demonstrate against changes in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Javier Ortega, 23, of Los Angeles takes part in the City Hall protest.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Demonstrators at Los Angeles City Hall.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Bonny Gonzalez, 22, left, of Hawthorne and Hewdy Pego, 21, of San Pedro at the downtown Los Angeles protest.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Rosa Pimentel, 20, of Hollywood joins the demonstration.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
DACA protesters gather at the intersection of Temple and Spring streets in downtown Los Angeles.(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Docnary Reyes, 21, joins other protesters in downtown Los Angeles to denounce the Trump administration’s move to phase out protections for DACA unless Congress acts on a plan.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Members of the Service Employees International Union gather with other protesters at the L.A. County Hall of Administration to protest the possible phasing out of the DACA program.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Service Employees International Union members arrive by bus to join protesters in downtown Los Angeles denouncing the decision to possibly phase out the DACA program.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Jose Torres attends the DACA protest in downtown Los Angeles.(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
The Rev. Thomas Carey hugs DACA student Maria Jose Vides of La Puente after a news conference in front of the Hall of Administration in Los Angeles.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Guisell Flores Martinez, 43, cries as she video tapes speeches about DACA during a press conference, in front of the Hall of Administration in Los Angeles.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Protesters gather at Trump Tower in New York in opposition to the announcement by President Trump that the DACA will end.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Gloria Mendoza, age 26, is a Dreamer. She is originally from Mexico City and took part in the protests at Trump Tower in New York.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Activists protesting the Trump administration’s decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are arrested by New York City Police officers after sitting in the street and blocking traffic on 5th Avenue near Trump Tower.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Immigration activists protesting the Trump administration’s decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are arrested by New York City Police officers as they sit in the street and block traffic on 5th Avenue near Trump Tower.(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
An immigrant holds a sign reading “GOP you killed our dreams”, as immigrants and supporters rally after President Trump ordered an end to DACA in Los Angeles.(David McNew / Getty Images)
Immigrants and supporters rally after President Trump ordered an end to DACA in Los Angeles.(David McNew / Getty Images)
From left, Paola Soria and Karla Collaguazo, both 20 and ‘dreamers’ originally from Ecuador, listen to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ remarks on ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on a smartphone before a protest in Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan.(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department on President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program.(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
Immigration activists protesting the Trump administration’s decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program sit in the street and block traffic on 5th Avenue near Trump Tower.(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
A person holds up a sign in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, and Temporary Protected Status programs during a rally in support of DACA and TPS outside of the White House.(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
Rosemary Segero, of Washington, who is originally from Kenya, rallies in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, outside of the White House. President Donald Trump’s administration will “wind down” a program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared Tuesday.(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
Immigrants and supporters demonstrate during a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in front of the White House. President Donald Trump has rescinded the program, ending amnesty for 800,000 young immigrants brought to the US illegally as minors and who are largely integrated into US society.(ERIC BARADAT / AFP/Getty Images)
“We don’t need DACA anymore. It’s gone. We cannot live like this… with scraps,” she said. “ I really hope that it’s going to be the beginning of something of a broader movement for our undocumented community to work together toward legislation, but not just for ourselves.”
Estrada said she and other activists won’t allow themselves to be used as “bargaining chips” for a stricter immigration enforcement.
“Hopefully this is a wake-up call for all of us,” she said. “I adopted ‘undocumented and unafraid’ in 2009. It won’t change. I won’t move from my house. I will keep working, like I did before DACA I will keep organizing. It will be harder, but this will just give me more strength.”
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