CVIndependent

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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Let’s get right into it:

• Remember how on Monday, we said that Gov. Gavin Newsom was expressing tentative optimism about a statewide decrease in COVID-19 cases? Well … it turns out there may or may not be a decrease at all—because the state reporting system is currently being hampered by technical issues. According to our partners at CalMatters: “California’s daily count of COVID-19 cases appears to be falling, but that may be due to underreporting caused by technical issues, state health officials said (Tuesday). ‘We’ve discovered some discrepancies,’ said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary in a press call. Data, he said, is ‘getting stuck’ in the electronic system that feeds information from test labs to both the state and local public health departments. This means counties and the state are not getting a full picture of who and how many are testing positive. That lack of information hampers the counties’ ability to investigate cases and initiate contact tracing, Ghaly said.” Whoops! 

• And here are details on an even-more heinous state whoops, also according to our partners at CalMatters: “As the coronavirus continues to sicken Californians, the state mistakenly terminated or reduced health-insurance benefits for thousands of low-income people. An error involving the state’s Medi-Cal program and its automated system for renewals triggered the drops in coverage—despite the governor’s executive order earlier this year that was supposed to ensure that people maintain access to safety net programs during the pandemic.” Yeesh.

• Meanwhile, the United Parcel Service is prepping for that happy day a vaccine is available: Bloomberg reports that UPS is building two “giant freezer farms” that can each hold up to 48,000 vaccine vials.

• More vaccine news: Johnson and Johnson will deliver 100 million vaccine does to the U.S. for a cool $1 billion when they’re ready—and give the U.S. the option to buy another 200 million doses, the drug-maker announced today. Presuming, you know, the vaccine actually works.

• Because the federal testing plan … uh, really isn’t a thing, seven states have joined forces to buy more than 3 million coronavirus antigen tests. These tests could be a game-changer; according to Bloomberg, “the tests, which search for proteins on the surface of the virus, can deliver results in 15 to 20 minutes.

• Public Citizen, “a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power,” yesterday issued a scathing report accusing Gilead Sciences and the federal government of “sitting on a potentially promising coronavirus treatment (GS-441524) for months that may offer significant advantages over the closely related antiviral drug remdesivir, possibly to maximize profits.” Read what Public Citizen has to say here.

• CNN today released a series of before and after satellite images of the pure devastation created by the massive explosion in Beirut yesterday. Simply put: They’re horrifying.

• It appears neither major-party presidential candidate will appear at their conventions to accept their nominations this year. The Biden campaign said today that the former vice president will not be going to Milwaukee, while the Trump administration is making plans for the president to deliver his nomination-acceptance speech from the White House, which may not exactly be legal.

• From the Independent: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—which allows some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children to gain legal status—were illegal. Nonetheless, feds are pretty much terminating the program anyway. Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to two local activists about the toll the DACA shutdown is taking on local undocumented families.

• Also from the Independent: President Trump recently suggested that we delay the election because of the supposed threat of mail-in voting fraud. Could he really do such a thing? Probably not … but Jeffrey C. Billman examines other scenarios Republicans seem to be preparing to use to create a constitutional crisis the likes of which the country has not seen since 1976.

• Past and present U.S. surgeons general said earlier this week that concerns over vaccines in the Black community could be a big problem, according to MedPage Today. That same publication also examined a related problem: Scientists aren’t doing enough to make sure people of color are being included in various clinical trials.

• The U.S. military has found the amphibious assault vehicle that sank off the coast of San Clemente Island last week, killing eight Marines and one sailor. CNN has the details on these people who died in service to our country.

• If you have not yet watched the bonkers interview President Trump did with Axios on HBO yet … boy, it’s worth your time—and here’s a link to the whole thing.

The PPP loans are starting to run out … and that means that more layoffs are coming.

• Our partners at High Country News took a pants-wetting look at the ways in which religious zealots in the West are using the pandemic as an opportunity to gain converts. Key quote: “When asked how he would respond to observers who say he’s exploiting people’s fear to further his anti-LGBTQ+, anti-women, anti-abortion agenda, (Idaho preacher Doug) Wilson responded frankly. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I am.’

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted yesterday to declare racism as a public health crisis. Better late than never!

The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership crunched the numbers on the decrease in passenger accounts at the Palm Springs International Airport. Key quote: “The lockdown, which started in mid-March, had an immediate effect, with passenger traffic for the month quickly dropping 50 percent. April and May traffic were down an unfathomable 97 percent and 90 percent. Projecting a conservative 50 percent drop in passengers for the rest of the year would result in a 2.8 million decrease in passengers for the entire year, resulting in passenger traffic for the year being only one-third of 2019.”

Flu-shot makers are producing record amounts of this year’s flu vaccine, anticipating that more people than ever will be getting the shots, because of … well, you know. 

• If you’re planning on sneaking into New York City without quarantining for two weeks, beware: They may have checkpoints waiting for you.

• We recently pointed out social-media sleuthing indicating that the Riviera may soon become a Margaritaville resort. Well, Jimmy Buffett fans can rejoice, because the conversion was officially announced today.

If you have Disney+ and are willing to fork out an extra $29.99, you will be able to watch the much-anticipated Mulan from your couch Sept. 4.

• Finally, because life is random and weird, yet history keeps repeating: Both Who’s the Boss? and Ren and Stimpy are being rebooted. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Be safe, everyone. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. If you value honest, independent local journalism, and have the means to do so, we ask you to help us continue to do what we do by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Thanks for reading! The Daily Digest will return Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—seemingly giving a lifeline to the program that allows some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children to gain legal status.

Celebrations, sparked by the relief felt in undocumented-immigrant communities, spread across America. But they would be short-lived.

“Today’s court opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the president’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program,” said a statement by Chad Wolf, the acting Homeland Security secretary.

A few days later, the Independent spoke to Megan Beaman Jacinto, a Coachella Valley immigration and civil rights attorney, about the impact of the ruling.

“What the decision did was essentially say that the Trump administration didn’t (try to) end DACA in the right way, and for that reason, DACA should be reopened for first-time applicants,” Beaman Jacinto said. “So it not only preserves DACA for those who are already in it, and (allows them) to keep renewing, which was already available, but it reopens it for people who qualified and weren’t able to apply after the program stopped. Hopefully, now there will be new people coming into the program. … But the ruling was very narrow and sort of temporary.”

On July 28, it became clear just how temporary hopes were for a reinstatement of the DACA program, when Wolf issued a statement saying he was directing “DHS personnel to take all appropriate actions to reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances, and to shorten DACA renewals (to one-year periods) consistent with the parameters established in this memorandum.”

The lives of roughly 640,000 current DACA recipients—and countless aspiring participants—were thrown into turmoil once again.

Vanessa Moreno, a resident of Coachella, is the program coordinator at COFEM Coachella Valley. The mission of COFEM—the Council of Mexican Federations in North America—is “to empower immigrant communities to be full participants in the social, political, economic and cultural life of the United States and their home country,” according to COFEM’s website. As someone who came to the United States as an undocumented child, Moreno said Wolf’s July 28 announcement was extremely upsetting.

“I felt so super-angry and frustrated. My ears started getting hot, and my hands started getting sweaty, and my stomach turned,” Moreno said. “I just didn’t know what else to say. I just couldn’t believe this was happening. We celebrated just a month ago that people were going to be able to apply for the first time, and we were preparing infographics to explain to people what the requirements are, and what documents they need. It’s like when you get to a point that you’ve had enough—you’re just so fed up, and I think everyone was feeling the same. I talked to my friends, and all of them were on the same page. They pretty much said that they can’t (fight) anymore. They said, ‘I have to review my future, and where am I going to be at? Will DACA be gone soon? Will I have to go back to my country? Should I go back?’”

Moreno said she’s fortunate, because she has two years of DACA protection left.

“I know I’m privileged to have DACA right now,” Moreno said. “Still, working with COFEM and knowing about all the other applicants, I didn’t know how to tell them that they can’t apply. That same day, I had to communicate with one parent who was interested in applying for DACA for his son. He had everything ready—the application and the money order. He just wanted the greenlight to send it. It broke my heart to tell him that under this memo, you can’t (apply), but we’re going to continue fighting. He was upset. But I started thinking about what else I could do to support (the parent). I asked, ‘Hey! Is your kid thinking about going to school, or is he in college right now?’ He told me that his son had just graduated from high school, but because he doesn’t have DACA, he can’t get a work permit. So, I told him right then that his son doesn’t need DACA to go to a two-year college. I know that DACA helps because you are able to have a job—to have that income to support your studies or get a car. But, at the end of the day, you can still go to college even without DACA.

“I told him about the Dreamer (Resource) Center at the College of the Desert, and the student club that I could help connect his son with. So he lit up and told me all this was great news. He said he would talk to his son about going to college, or at least taking a class or two, so he could connect to the resources. It made me think that there are probably a lot of cases like that, and that this is what the potential DACA applicants are dealing with right now. They want to seek a higher education, but they feel that they can’t. If they don’t know the resources (available to them), then I can only imagine what the state of their mental health is right now.”

In the early 2000s, when she was 8 years old, Moreno and her family left Michoacán, Mexico, before settling in the Coachella Valley. They managed to maintain a foothold in this country despite numerous challenges.

In June 2012, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a memorandum establishing the policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

“When I graduated from high school in 2012,” Moreno said, “it was just a couple of months before (President Barack) Obama’s executive order establishing the DACA program. I had already decided to go to community college, and because DACA was new at that time, and it had never been done before, there was still a lot of fear in our communities, and I was hesitant to apply right then. When my sister and I—she’s now in DACA, too—saw that it was safe to apply, and that people were getting their work permits delivered to them, we figured it would be best to apply. So we did, and I think that helped me gain more confidence.

“In high school, I was very involved, but then I became really discouraged since I couldn’t attend a four-year college because of my status. Not that it was impossible for me, but the economic hardships were there, and I couldn’t afford it. Thankfully, though, with the support of my mom, we (managed) to pay for my first semester at the College of the Desert. Also, the California Dream Act had been passed, so we were able to apply for state financial aid.”

According to the California state website, “the California Dream Act allows students interested in attending eligible California colleges, universities and career education programs to apply for state financial aid. It is unrelated to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.” It became law in 2011.

Moreno said she at first struggled with her status during her college years. “I went to a conference at UCLA for undocumented students, and I think that’s what brought me back to my old self and got me really involved in the community,” she said. “That’s when I officially came out of the shadows. Before that, I was afraid to share my status with friends and other folks. But going to this conference made me realize that I wasn’t alone, and it helped to bring my motivation back.”

Moreno completed her college education after transferring to Cal State Fullerton. Her a future as an immigrant-rights advocate solidified as she participated in school clubs such as Alas Con Futuro (Wings for the Future) at COD, and the Titan Dreamers Resource Center at Fullerton, where she co-founded the Dream Co-op, also known as the Diversity-Resilience-Education-Access-Movement-Cooperation student lab. She was also accepted for an internship with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). According to the organization’s website, CHIRLA’s mission “is to achieve a just society fully inclusive of immigrants.”

“When I graduated, I thought about staying in Fullerton, but it was difficult to find a job,” Moreno said. “Then I saw a position here in Palm Desert with an attorney who was looking for someone who had an immigration background. I came and took the job, but I was only there for a month. I realized that being involved over in Fullerton, and again in L.A. with CHIRLA, if I came back to the valley, I needed to get involved with other organizations.

“That’s how I came across COFEM. I got an email from the club adviser at the College of the Desert that they were looking for volunteers for a citizenship clinic. So, I thought, ‘Hey! This organization’s mission is to empower immigrant communities, and that’s perfect.’ So, I went to volunteer. I think they were expecting a big event, so pretty much the whole (COFEM) team came down (from L.A.), and I got to meet them. They told me they were hiring, so they interviewed me on the spot.”

Moreno said she wasn’t prepared yet to work for COFEM—"but it was definitely meant to be.”

“On Sep. 5, 2017, Trump first terminated DACA. I called COFEM (again) to ask if they were doing any advocacy on DACA, because Trump had terminated the program. They asked to come to L.A. to talk again. So I did, and they hired me. In the beginning, my main focus was to support undocumented students, but then I started taking on more responsibilities with the organization. I’ve been working there almost two years now. Still, it’s crazy (this job) happened due to the termination of DACA.”

Both Moreno and Beaman Jacinto pointed out that DACA is just a small part of the work that needs to be done on behalf of the nation’s immigrants.

“We want people to understand the importance of a permanent solution (to the U.S. immigration quandary) and not having something temporary,” Moreno said. “Also, they should know that we’re going to continue fighting.”

Said Beaman Jacinto: “There’s been a lot of focus on DACA for the last eight years, since it became law under President Obama. It’s been an important step in the right direction, but it’s a very limited program that only serves a very limited number of people, and not even all youths are covered by it. So it was a small step in the right direction—but there is so much work still to be done.”

Published in Local Issues

Alan has now lived in the Coachella Valley for 17 years, ever since he was 17 years old.

Even though he has always worked hard and played by the rules—at least the rules that aren’t stacked against him—he doesn’t want his last name used in this story. The reason: Both he and his wife are undocumented immigrants. They have a son, 10, who is a U.S. citizen by birth.

“Since President Trump has been in office, we have seen all the anti-immigrant statements and all the news coverage on TV of what’s happening,” he said. “We’ve been afraid to go out and go about our normal life routines, because if a cop stops us, they will call the immigration (agents), and we will be taken away.

“We’re very uncomfortable, and it is not easy for us to live every day. We always have to be looking behind our backs.”

The government under Donald Trump seems to be quite proud of such discomfort. On Feb. 16, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release stating that the agency’s personnel had arrested 212 individuals for violating federal immigration laws, and had served 122 notices of inspection to businesses in the Los Angeles area. On March 16, another ICE news release trumpeted the arrests of 115 individuals in San Diego and Imperial counties, again for violating federal immigration laws. On June 14, yet another ICE news release announced the arrests of 162 individuals in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, including 15 people in San Bernardino County, and 12 here in Riverside County.

Yet another ICE news release, from May 14, proclaimed that between Oct. 1, 2017, and May 4, 2018, Homeland Security had opened some 3,510 worksite investigations, and had made 594 criminal and 610 administrative worksite-related arrests. Compared to the entire previous fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, the number of investigations had more than doubled—and the number of arrests had quadrupled.

Anyone believed to be in this country illegally is fair game. “ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” ICE Director Thomas Homan said in a statement. “All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

It’s clear: Not only is the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration violations intended to identify and remove convicted criminals from American society; it’s also designed to create a climate of fear in the daily lives of all undocumented immigrants—including many of our neighbors here in the Coachella Valley.

“The U.S. Border Patrol has jurisdiction over our streets and our community; that’s why immigration has always been a problem, and our community continues to be at risk,” said Luz Gallegos, the community programs director for TODEC Legal Center, an organization with offices in Perris and Coachella which seeks to empower disenfranchised immigrant communities, according to its website. “But what has changed lately is that a lot of the rhetoric is creating more fear, and all of the political division at the federal level is really impacting people at the grassroots level.”

This rhetoric has brought out a lot of hate—and it’s plaguing both undocumented and documented immigrants in our community, Gallegos said.

“We hear from students what they are going through in their schools,” she said. “Even kids are emboldened to talk on their hate, saying things like, ‘Go back to Mexico!’ and calling them wetbacks. We see that people now feel empowered to speak out about feelings they’ve carried their entire lives.

“Having grown up here for my whole life, as a child, we heard that the KKK would gather in Rainbow (in northern San Diego county), and we always feared the KKK growing up. Back then, we didn’t know who they were, because they wore robes and covered their faces, but now, you really know who these people are, right? People are coming out, and now we can really see where people stand.”


Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia represents the state’s 56th District, which includes much of the eastern Coachella Valley. He said the hatred being openly expressed toward immigrants ignores the valuable contributions they make to our community.

“It’s important to highlight just who we are talking about,” Garcia said. “We are talking about people who work in very significant and important industries to the Coachella Valley economy—folks working out in the farming fields of the eastern Coachella Valley who are putting food on people’s tables, along with the men and women who make up a large part of the hospitality and service industry that is essential to our economy in California. So we’re talking about just putting a face to the subject. These are the working people who help drive the economic engine of our region.”

Megan Beaman-Jacinto is an immigration-rights attorney, activist and candidate for the Coachella City Council.

“A lot of things that this president has tried to do against immigrants have not been able to proceed, like trying to end DACA,” Beaman-Jacinto said. (DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows some younger people who came to the United States without documents to stay and work legally in the U.S.) “But other things have happened—things like people being denied immigration benefits at higher rates now (than under previous administrations). And (President Trump) is trying to pass new regulations that will make it harder for even permanent residents to become citizens if they used certain public benefits, even legally, in the past.

“Every day, almost, there’s a new attack on immigrants—and the media’s exposure of that is definitely having mixed results. On the one hand, it’s great that people are finally seeing this and paying attention when they didn’t before. But on the other hand, for people who are personally impacted by it, it is really stressful to see all the time, everywhere you look. I went with some clients to a citizenship interview a few weeks ago in the immigration offices in San Bernardino. In that lobby, there are two TVs, and they’re always on CNN. So the whole time we were waiting there, it was like, ‘Trump says this about immigrants, and Trump says that about immigrants and this about the immigration department.’ … I’m thinking, ‘Well, at least my client is about to become a citizen,’ but who knows what other status everyone else in that room has? That’s really terrifying if you’re one of the people directly impacted, and it goes on nonstop.”

The nation’s immigration system has been broken for a long time, since long before Donald Trump became president. In fact, some immigration activists referred to President Barack Obama as the “deporter-in-chief” due to his administration’s high number of deportations.

However, the intensity of the rhetoric is indeed new.

“Now you get an administration that begins to utilize the state of fear—(saying) that illegal immigration is taking over, that illegal immigration is the reason for increases in violent crimes. … ‘They are rapists, murderers, etc., etc., etc.,’ Garcia said. “The fact that we still remain with no comprehensive immigration reform policy creates a huge level of uncertainty for a lot of people in this country, in California and in the Coachella Valley.

“I’ve got to imagine that this type of fear-mongering has disrupted our economy to some extent. Perhaps people are not presenting themselves for work. Perhaps the kids are not showing up at school. (There’s a) decrease in the number of people who want to access health-care services due to the concern that they may be ‘outed’ for being here undocumented. I would even argue that our public-safety services suffer, because the cooperation between our residents and law enforcement is impacted negatively. For instance, a victim of crime or a witness to crime, who might be here undocumented, might not be willing to cooperate with law enforcement. So it’s a very huge issue, and it goes back to the inability of a U.S. Congress and an administration to put together what would be a comprehensive immigration policy that would bring about certainty for the people in our valley, our state and in our country.”

Gallegos said she and her colleagues at TODEC have seen the damage this rhetoric is causing.

“There is a lot of fear out there, and (at TODEC), we believe that our role is to educate the community,” Gallegos said. “But that fear still exists, and it even impacts our local economy. We talk to the farmers in the east end of Coachella Valley, and they tell us they’re concerned that they are losing their workforce. The stores, like Cardenas, tell us that they’ve lost a lot of business because of this whole fear factor. It’s affecting our community and the local economy.”

The hyper-politicization of the immigration issue has also led to another type of fear—a fear of speaking out. The Independent reached out to numerous agricultural and retail businesses, and they all declined to go on the record for this story.

The same thing happened when we tried to talk to valley health-care providers about the effects ICE enforcements have had on immigrants seeking treatment and services: Only one person agreed to go on the record, and that was Doug Morin, the executive director Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine, an organization in Indio that offers no-cost health care to adults who are uninsured or underinsured. He said his clinic has noted a substantial and ongoing decline in patient visits since the Trump administration took office in January 2017.

“I would say we’re still 20 percent below the number of patient visits we had during the pre-Trump days,” he said.

The decline has continued despite a concerted effort on the clinic’s part that included hiring an outreach specialist to make door-to-door contact with underserved populations to assure them that both they and their personal information would be safe if they came to get medical attention.

“We even changed our fliers that we had out for patient recruitment,” Morin said. “They used to just say, ‘Your health is our number one concern,’ and now it says, ‘Your safety and your health is our number one concern.”


So … where do we go from here? After all, Trump’s four-year term is less than half over, and there’s no hint that his administration will ease up on either the enforcement actions or the rhetoric anytime soon.

“We tell community that ‘our faith will keep us strong,’” Gallegos said. “There are a lot of young people coming up who want to make change. They see how this uncertainty and fear is impacting their family, friends and (everyone’s) mental health, and they’re taking it very personally. We tell them, ‘We have to continue resisting—and the way you’re going to resist is go to school. Finish your high school; go to college; and be a professional. You will prove everybody wrong,’ and that’s what our kids are doing. They are people of character, with morals and compassion. It’s become personal to them.

“Most importantly, we tell them to make sure to vote because that’s the way you create change.”

Garcia said some actions can be taken on the local and state levels.

“It is a federal question, but you know, states have rights,” he said. “When we have an emergency in California—as we’ve seen in recent months with the fires, the droughts and other natural disasters—we have the ability to declare a state of emergency and have the federal government support that position via policy and/or resources needed to address that emergency. In California, I believe that the issue of labor shortages in very specific industries that are highly occupied by immigrants could be considered such an emergency. I think that in itself is reason to work as a state in addressing our labor needs. These labor shortages are having a significant impact on our local economy right now—and not addressing the immigration issue ties into this threat very closely.

“I made an effort this past year to exercise that states’ right and develop a working group (in the state Legislature), that would ultimately need the blessing of Homeland Security and the federal government, to put together a program that would bring certainty of legal status, allowing those California residents working in these critical industries to continue contributing to our economy. Also, it would address ways to ensure that people are being paid salaries, receiving benefits and having housing that are respectable by California’s high standards. Stabilizing the existing unpermitted workforce by removing their tremendous fear and giving them and their families some certainty would be the first objective, and the second would be to develop a framework that would allow for us to address the real labor shortages that exist for these industries. I just think there’s a better way to go about this than disrupting the economies of the country, state and the Coachella Valley.”

Garcia’s effort did not get very far; his Assembly Bill 1885 didn’t even make it up for a vote in a committee.

“It continues to engage a number of individuals in a dialogue,” Garcia said. “… Unfortunately, we had a lot of people who got stuck on the notion that this issue is a federal issue only. They would not look at it as an economic and labor-shortage issue in California, as well as a national food-security issue. You know, we feed a large part of the world, and if our agricultural industries see a significant decline, because we can’t get enough people to do the necessary work, then we’re looking at being dependent on other nations for our food and commodities, which should be a major concern for people from a security standpoint, a health standpoint, and because we would be supporting other countries’ practices of underpaying and undervaluing their workforces.

“So the bill did not move. Next, we introduced a resolution, (Assembly Joint Resolution) 34. The resolution took a strong position supporting the same principles we supported in the legislation, and it had bipartisan support built around a coalition of assemblymembers and senators from farming communities throughout the state. This resolution would send the message to Washington, D.C., about what California is thinking, and wanting to do, and we encouraged our federal counterparts to engage with us in this conversation. It was passed and sent to the governor’s desk. Resolutions are position papers. As a result, they are not as controversial as trying to set something in stone as a law.”

Meanwhile, Coachella Valley residents like Alan and his wife continue to live in fear.

“Thank God I haven’t had to go to the hospital or seek medical services of late, but if we had to, we would go to get medical help here. My son is attending school,” he said. “What upsets all of us the most is that we feel like we’re being held back, and we’re not able to move forward with our lives. (The federal government) now is putting all these obstacles in our way.”

Upper right—Immigration-rights attorney and Coachella City Council candidate Megan Beaman-Jacinto: “Every day, almost, there’s a new attack on immigrants—and the media’s exposure of that is definitely having mixed results. On the one hand, it’s great that people are finally seeing this and paying attention when they didn’t before. But on the other hand, for people who are personally impacted by it, it is really stressful to see all the time, everywhere you look. Below—“We talk to the farmers in the east end of Coachella Valley, and they tell us they’re concerned that they are losing their workforce,” said Luz Gallegos, the community programs director for TODEC Legal Center. “The stores, like Cardenas, tell us that they’ve lost a lot of business because of this whole fear factor. It’s affecting our community and the local economy.” Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Local Issues

In 2001, the DREAM Act was introduced in Congress. If passed into law, the DREAM Act would grant legal status to undocumented children who were brought to and educated in the United States.

Sixteen years later, the act has never been passed. DREAMers, the young men and women who would be affected by the law, received some help in 2012 when the Obama administration enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy—but in September, the Trump administration announced it was repealing the program. (See “A Nightmare for Dreamers,” Oct. 19, at CVIndependent.com.)

As a result, Hugo Chavez, of Desert Hot Springs, fears for his future.

Chavez is well-known in the Coachella Valley music community. He’s the drummer for local band Sleeping Habits (formerly The BrosQuitos), and is one of the many DREAMers across the country who hope to become a legal resident or citizen someday.

“I was brought here from Mexico when I was less than a year old,” Chavez said during a recent interview. “It’s something that has always affected my life in some way or another. It’s hard to explain, because when you’re not in that situation, you are very unaware of how it really is. You have what you want, but you can’t really do anything.

“(DACA) helped out a lot. As a musician, the fear of crossing somewhere or playing somewhere like San Diego—it wasn’t a possibility. You can’t go somewhere like San Diego over the fear of being deported, and (DACA) took that fear away. … It’s like being trapped in a golden cage: You’re where you want to be, but you can’t really do anything.”

Chavez said he lives in Desert Hot Springs for a reason.

“I’ve stayed here in Desert Hot Springs my whole life, because it’s more of a safe haven than anything else,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about Border Patrol coming through here, especially for our families. … It’s a safe haven for them, and they don’t have to worry so much about hiding or going to the local grocery store.”

Chavez said he really started to understand the gravity of his situation when he was in high school.

“You see your friends when they turn 16 going to get their licenses and doing the typical American teenager stuff, and you’re always questioning, ‘Why am I not doing that?’ or, ‘Why can’t I do that?’” he said. “Then it all hits you that you can’t get a license or even an ID card because of your status. It sucks, because I had opportunities to take trips with the marching band or do other extracurricular activities that I couldn’t do.”

Chavez’s parents—like the parents of many DREAMers—came to the United States in search of the American dream.

“It’s the same story that anyone would tell you: It’s the pursuit of a better life,” he said. “When you’re living in Mexico, some people work all week to make 100 pesos, and that’s not even $10 in the United States. They can’t survive, making so little money. Parents want their kids to go to college; they want something bigger for them, or at least some opportunity for their children to pursue a dream. That’s why my mom and dad have to do what they do.”

When we discussed the arguments people opposed to the DREAM Act often make, Chavez said the opponents oversimplify things.

People like to say, ‘If you don’t like your country, you should fix it.’ But it’s not that easy,” he said. “People can vote and start as many petitions as they can in this country, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to change anything. It’s the same thing there. People can speak out, but when you have a government that controls the people as well as they do there, there’s not much you can say or do without fear of repercussions.”

Chavez’s family has been trying to get legal status for several years.

“It’s something people are really misguided about. A lot of people just say, ‘Go get your citizenship!’ It’s not like I can walk into an office and pay to get my citizenship. It doesn’t work like that,” he said. “My family has been in the process of getting our citizenship and visas for over 10-plus years. We’ve supposedly been approved, but there’s no actual date to go and do our fingerprints or anything like that. … It’s not simple at all, and you have to go through so many background checks, and they check your health, your status, where you work, and everything before you’re approved. It’s not something that takes 10 minutes, like it’s in and out at the DMV. … If it were so easy, this wouldn’t be such a big deal.”

Despite his legal status, Chavez said he wants to pursue as many of his dreams as he can.

“Now that I have (DACA), it allowed me to get my license, get my ID, and get everything that I needed in order to make that next step into getting citizenship,” he said. “The fear of going somewhere is not there anymore. I can freely go to the courthouse or go somewhere to pay a fee knowing that I’m going to make it home that same night. It’s a liberating feeling.

“Having the option to go to college and do anything that I want to do is something I don’t take for granted. Some people live in this country and have all these opportunities by birthright, and then they blame society for all the things they haven’t done. I’d rather fight for what I got and work my way up.”

I asked Chavez what the repeal of DACA, without a replacement by Congress, would mean for him.

“The basic fear is the fear of having to go back into hiding—the fear of not being accepted in general,” he said. “I have nothing different than my fellow band members or my friends in college; I’m just the same as a person as they are. The fear of having to dwell back and not be able to do the things I do now—it’d be a step in the wrong direction, especially for people like me who have so much to offer, and so much to do, and (our legal status) is the only thing holding us back.”

Published in Local Issues

On Oct. 8, the Trump White House released a long list of demands that the president had given to Congress—demands that Trump said would need to be met in order for the fate of young undocumented immigrants, often called DREAMers, to be determined.

“These findings outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” Trump said. “Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end.”

The list of demands disappointed advocates of DREAMers—young men and women who could face deportation if Congress does not act.

Hadley Bajramovic is a Riverside County immigration attorney for both the Consulate of Mexico and the Consulate of Guatemala. She said the proclamation by Trump did not surprise her.

“I don’t know that it was shocking,” Bajramovic said, “but the recommendations (the Trump White House) made are very harsh from our point of view. A lot of the principles and policies that are talked about in that memo are already in place. So, for me, there are parts of it that are just a big eye-roll.

“I noticed a theme of using criminality as a scare tactic—like we aren’t protected from (immigrants). ‘We need to protect the U.S.A. from these people,’ but the protections are already there.”

Bajramovic highlighted some of the positions outlined in the White House directive that she found to be misleading and/or inflammatory.

“The administration is suggesting that the border is still porous, and it is not,” she said. “I work with people who come to the border and declare asylum or ask for protection, and also people who crossed the border illegally. In the past two to three years, I have not had anybody come to my office who recently crossed without inspection. It was very common up until about 2007-2008 that people would either cross through the desert or come in (with the help of) a coyote. Now the people I am seeing were admitted or paroled in by the Border Patrol because they established that they could be eligible for relief. So the notion that the border is still porous is wrong. Building a wall is unnecessary. It’s an unnecessary expense.”

“But what was interesting and eye-opening is that whoever drafted these policies was aware of the protections coming into place under our local laws to help undocumented people or people with immigration issues who have criminal convictions. Most recently, California passed a law that allows attorneys to submit motions to vacate criminal convictions if it can be proven that the defendant was not fully aware of the immigration consequences of accepting a plea deal. This law, California 1473.7, went into effect this past January and says that before a person can do a plea deal, they must understand what they are doing. It’s a due-process protection, and it’s fair. This memo attacks that type of due-process protection and is calling it a part of the ‘sanctuary status.’ It calls for prohibiting states or cities from giving that kind of a remedy. That’s really disturbing.

“Another point that is really important: California provides services and benefits to aliens,” Bajramovic said. “In fact, the California Department of Social Services just opened up federal funding (to access by the public) of $45 million to fund immigration relief for undocumented people. Now this memo says they want to restrict grants to states that do that.”

Megan Beaman Jacinto is a La Quinta-based immigration-rights attorney.

“I’ve seen some phases of reaction and response (among current DACA beneficiaries), beginning with the time leading up to Sept. 5, when Trump declared that DACA would be ended by executive order. There was dread mixed with terror leading up to that date—but after, it was just terror,” she said. “There was a lot of uncertainty immediately about whether that announcement meant that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would just be coming for everyone who then possessed DACA. That was the initial reaction, I think, both in the advocate community as well as the DACA-recipient undocumented community.”

Beaman Jacinto pointed out a less-obvious consequence of the Trump administration’s ongoing anti-immigration stance.

“There’s been an interesting political framing of the DREAMer community as the one, limited group of people who are deserving of immigration protection,” Beaman Jacinto said. “It’s like they were the victims of their parents (actions and decisions). I appreciate, and agree, that the group we call DREAMers should be protected, but it sort of requires that we vilify everyone else. The parents of those kids are not DREAMers, even though they came here to provide a better life for their families. And the kids arriving now are not DREAMers, because they didn’t arrive before the deadline and the passage of the DREAMer legislation. It’s an interesting and arbitrary set of guidelines that have established this one deserving group that’s received protection both from Obama’s DACA executive order and now, most likely, from the (new Trump iteration) of the DREAM Act which we think will become law, hopefully next year. If that passes, it will be really great, and a step in the right direction—but it has required throwing a lot of other people under the bus.”

“If the DREAM Act does pass, or even if it doesn’t, we need to do the right thing for other people who didn’t fall into that so-called DREAMer category—because we’re all dreamers.”

Published in Local Issues