On June 15, 2012 President Barack Obama signed an executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The order established a program for youthful immigrants across this country, setting up a system that not only would prevent their imminent deportation, but also provide them with resources necessary to begin their individual paths to citizenship. Under the program, such immigrants were allowed to get social security numbers, work permits, access to student loans and a sense of security. Obama took this serious—and some would say constitutionally unsound—approach to establishing his agenda in the face of a hostile and obstructionist legislative branch led by a Republican Congress.
Flash forward five years. The Republicans, under notorious nativist Donald Trump, scored the White House and still rule over the legislative branch with solid majorities in both houses of Congress. One of Trump’s campaign promises called for an end to DACA. On Sept. 5, 2017 he made good on his word, sending über-conservative Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the podium to announce that the program would be rescinded and that congress would have 6 months to work out an alternative to deporting the more than 800,000 hardworking scholars, high achievers and cultural contributors who had been accepted into the program as of March 31, 2017.
Here in New Mexico, the Dreamers, as DACA participants are called, say though they’re disappointed, they will continue to work for justice and acceptance. For a bunch of dreamers, they’re serious folks, engaged in activities that generally mark them as exceptional, successful and driven. Such is the case with Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz and her twin sister Jazmin Coronel. Yazmin is in medical school at UNM and a field organizer for the NM Dream Team; Jazmin, a law school graduate, is the manager of the Economic Development program at Instituto Legal, a local non-profit that works with immigrants.
Weekly Alibi sat down with these two Dreamers last weekend to find out more about them, their program and ultimately their place in this great melting pot nation.
Weekly Alibi: How did Burque become your home?
Jazmin: It’s a long story. We grew up in Phoenix. We immigrated to the US when we were three, with our mom. We lived in Arizona until we were 16, that’s also when our mother disclosed to us that we were undocumented. We just knew we were a really poor family. My mother suffered a stroke and my siser and I tried to get jobs to help out, but something was wrong ... that’s when our mother told us. An attorney was really blunt with us and told us there weren’t many options. But my mom said, “no you’re going to school, you’re going to succeed,” and we did our research, moved to Albuquerque and applied for DACA. We graduated from Del Norte High School, did our undergrad degrees at UNM and both entered professional programs afterwards, thanks to DACA.
How did DACA help you both accomplish so much?
Yazmin: When the program was announced, it was a huge relief for the three of us. We knew that DACA would allow us to work and go to school, but most importantly it would protect us from deportation.
Before DACA, were you unsettled and fearful of your future here in the US?
Jazmin: As an undocumented family, there’s always the fear of how are you going to survive the month? What’s going to happen when we are inevitably detained is a constant worry. There’s a domino effect: jobs, school, our home. There’s a misconception that we don’t fully participate in the system and have access to privileges citizens don’t, that ultimately we’re criminals who take away from America. So we fear the consequences of such beliefs.
Yazmin: As a matter of fact, we’re not eligible for any public assistance programs. We both pay income tax to the state of New Mexico and the federal government. Immigrants contribute significantly to this state’s GDP, our economy relies on immigrant labor to get a variety of jobs done. So there is a lot of fear, but there’s also a feeling of resilience that keeps us going. Every month we make it.
So in a lot of ways, you’re like any American family struggling with the economy, working to make things better, am I right?
Jazmin: We are an American family. We love this country. This is the country that has given us opportunity and hope. We don’t want that to be taken away. What American would?