President Trump has decided to allow the Obama-era policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to expire. The program has protected three-quarters of a million young immigrants, living here without papers. Some are students. There are many in Texas who will feel the sting of a new federal policy, especially in the city of El Paso.
Sitting in a hallway at the University of Texas at El Paso, student Claudia Yoli, describes the moment when she came forward.
“The first time that I ever felt inclined or felt empowered to share my story as a dreamer was on November 9, which was the day after the last presidential election,” says Yoli.
This native of Venezuela was just beginning her junior year and decided to speak out at a press conference.
“I remember fearing, because I’m a DACA recipient, fearing that President Trump would not continue the program,” says Yoli.
“And people like me, dreamers who were just, just scared, the time was then, the time is now to get involved and to come out from the shadows.”
This Spring, Yoli helped formed a group called Education Not Deportation. They initially mobilized against Senate Bill 4, the Texas ban on sanctuary cities that was blocked last month by a federal judge. Andrea Reyes is also a founding member.
“We’re an organization that is actively organizing to resist any sort of border militarization and especially campus deportations,”says Reyes. “Some things that we do is teach Know Your Rights workshops.
A lifelong resident of El Paso, she recalls the plight of a Texas student who was studying abroad with her, but on the plane trip back to the States:
“As soon as he touched base back in Texas, he arrived and he got deported.”
Yoli didn’t know how many fellow dreamers like her were on campus, but one of her professors put the number at 400.
“Which is a significantly large number compared to other schools. As a student at UTEP, as a junior at UTEP, I have never feared, before, you know, police officers coming up to me to question about my immigration status,” says Yoli. “I had never seen border patrol, or ICE agents on campus.”
But now she has that fear. Still, she still thinks her school will be a flashpoint. And she’s optimistic.
“UTEP being a university on the border has historically been friendly towards international students. I think that El Paso is the community to change the narrative about immigrants and about the border.”
The city has an estimated 10,000 registered dreamers. Yoli’s group, Education not Deportation, is holding rallies this week on campus.