DACA Recipients Respond to the Hope — and Challenges — of a Biden Presidency

“I think I was making my coffee. I had just bought this French press and I was so excited to use it,” says Jorge Gutierrez, who was at home in Los Angeles with his partner this past Saturday, when his phone started blowing up. “There was sort of that sense of relief for a moment, and I think it’s OK to celebrate. We understand that the work is far from over — and that now it’s time to hold Biden and Harris accountable.”

Gutierrez identifies as queer, was born in Mexico, grew up in Orange County, California, and is the executive director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. He is a “Dreamer,” or a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a 2012 President Barack Obama-era program that ensures that Gutierrez and nearly 650,000 young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children are not deported.

President Donald Trump has so far been unsuccessful in repealing DACA, ultimately losing in the Supreme Court. But his administration (like with so much national immigration policy) has thrown up significant roadblocks, most notably stopping all new DACA applications. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will make DACA permanent on his first day in office.

In light of the potential changes in immigration rules that could come under a Biden administration, from temporary protected status (TPS) to asylum seekers to student visas, Rolling Stone has convened a series of roundtable discussions to reflect on the last four years, and look to the future. This is the first installment, with five organizers who are all DACA recipients calling in with their stories.

According to Claudio Quinonez, who’s a campaign organizer with United We Dream and lives in Maryland (and is originally from Bolivia), everything about the Biden/Harris win felt different than Trump’s previous victory.

“I felt alone. I felt that I was going to lose DACA because that was one of Trump’s campaign promises. And we have to fight for our humanity and push back as much as we could,” says Quinonez. “And to now, four years later, where undocumented people of color have been able to contact registered voters and make sure that we turned this election, and actually get someone in the White House that we can hold accountable.”

Manny Castro, originally from Mexico but living in New York City since he was five years old, is the executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment. Like the rest of the panelists, Castro says that DACA is just the first step in their fight.

“We have to pause here and ask of the Biden administration, or of Biden himself, ‘What do you want your legacy to be? Do you want to be the next Deporter-in-Chief? Or do you really want to come through for our communities, finally?’” Castro asks. Doing that would mean “making sure that ‘Dreamers’ and DACA recipients are protected, but look, we’re looking for something much bigger, much bolder. We want our parents protected. We want our families protected. The fight doesn’t stop at us.”

Hairo Cortes lives in California, originally hails from Mexico, and is the founder and executive director of Chispa. Cortes echoes the sentiment that DACA is just the beginning for his organizing in the next four years. “We’re at a point where a permanent fix or solution for DACA, I feel like that’s a bare minimum. For a Biden administration to actually begin to deliver, we need to start with the moratorium on deportations, which is something that he did promise during the campaign,” Hairo explains.

Jessica Rodriguez, who’s from Mexico originally, organizes with Mijente in the Tuscon, Arizona area. She stresses that it will not be easy “to undo all the harm that the Trump administration has caused. We cannot forget or move on away from all this harm, and all this painful four years it has been for all of us, says Rodriguez. “Not just the migrant community, but it’s also the indigenous community whose lands have been impacted, also black people who continue to be killed and be targets of police brutality, and the list goes on, right? And all of this was emboldened by the Trump administration, and it’s just not going to go away when Trump is out.”


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