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DREAMers at Brockport affected by DACA

by Kiara Alfonseca - Staff Writer
Wed, Sep 20th 2017 03:00 pm
A DREAM DEFERRED - Kemberly Gil is a highly active member of her community. She is also a DREAMer.
A DREAM DEFERRED - Kemberly Gil is a highly active member of her community. She is also a DREAMer.

Kemberly Gil, 21, knows the ins-and-outs of The College at Brockport. Whether it is roaming dorm halls as a resident assistant, tabling in the Seymour College Union for the Office of Community Development or tutoring in the office of the Brockport Migrant Education Program, Gil is a familiar face around campus.

Gil is also a DREAMer protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is an Obama-era policy that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. while under the age of 16 to obtain work permits, driver’s licenses and legally reside here. The program, however, does not provide permanent legal status or a clear pipeline to citizenship. Gil arrived from Colombia at the age of three, but the path she’s been on for 18 years in America has become unclear as she nears graduation in May.

“With DACA on the line, mine expires in 2019,” Gil said. “I don’t know if I will be able to apply to graduate school. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get a good job. I don’t know what that means for me right now.”

The numbers of students under DACA in the SUNY system is uncertain — SUNY applications don’t ask about documented status, so there aren’t exact figures to track the number of DREAMers on the Brockport campus. In the U.S. however, approximately 800,000 students, workers, and next-door neighbors are DACA recipients.

DACA is important to the hundreds of thousands students like Gil because of the opportunities they’ve sought from it. Gil’s work permits allowed her to pay to apply to colleges, afford tutors, travel and make her day-to-day world more stable.

The demographics of DREAMers is a mixed bag and every story is different. The diverse populations of DACA recipients include Mexico, Guatemala, Korea, China, India, Jamaica and more. The faces of DACA aren’t solely of Hispanic background. The narrative 

around DREAMers and the people included under that term is limiting, according to Gil. 

 “They put [out news on] the 4.0 [GPA] student and the girl who graduated at the top of her class or the ones who get scholarships or the ones who are super athletic,” Gil said.“There are people who don’t fit into that category, like people with disabilities.”

 Before DACA, stability in America seemed far away. Her mother worked hard to support the family financially, but the reality of deportation was constant.

 “My mom never hid our status,” Gil said. “It was something we needed to be prepared for in case they got deported.”

 Since Brockport is located within 100 miles of the border, undocumented students aren’t completely secure on campus and don’t make up a large population at the college. The fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from random searches, but within 100 miles of the border, the Border Patrol has more freedoms. The campus lacks safety for undocumented students against profiling or casual searches.

 Thanks to DACA, Gil no longer has to fear being deported. She even says it “saved her future.” Without it the possibility of DACA being rescinded is now in Congress’ hands makes her dreams unsecure once again. Gil wants to continue to educate immigrants and migrant workers, similar to the work she does now at the Brockport Migrant Education Program.

 There, migrant agricultural workers and their families are advocated for, taught their rights and taught English. She works with Donna Spence, the program director, who leads the Title I federal grant project that oversees the counties of Orleans, Niagara     and Monroe.

 

 

 

Spence comes from a background in education and found rewarding work in migrant education. She says DACA gives students “permission not to live every day in fear,” and this deferred action is only a temporary solution to the problem. The two share similar sentiments on the policy’s impending end. 

 “We are people,” Gil said. “Put yourself in our shoes. What would you do if your country had nothing to offer you?” 

 

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