March 5: It’s a date that’s been imprinted on the minds of Dreamers since exactly six months ago, when President Trump arbitrarily set it as the day DACA protections would begin to unravel unless Congress came up with a legislative version of the policy. The time is now, and the Dreamers are hanging on by a thread. The court injunction passed by California federal judge William Alsup shields Dreamers from deportation, but is cold comfort for the 800,000 young people whose lives hang in the balance.
“These court decisions could end at any point in the near future,” Faiz Shakir, National Political Director of the ACLU, told VICE Impact. “And it’s more important that a legislative measure is passed.”
In September 2017, Trump thought Congress would have worked it out by now. But because he has rejected any bipartisan bills that have come across his desk, and because Congress has continued to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip to advance their agendas, no resolution has been found.
“We have to send a message that we are unafraid. They think they can bury us, but they didn’t know we are seeds and we are going to blossom. We are strong and resilient and we will continue to fight.”
“The significance of this date is that it is a major failure by Donald Trump,” said Shakir. “It was an idiotic strategic decision and now we all have to figure out the consequences.”
Even though the deadline was arbitrary, the consequences are real. For Karina Ruiz, a mother of three from Arizona who was brought to this country from Mexico at 15, it means structuring her life around her activism. It means not pursuing her career in science so she can be flexible enough to attend rallies, like the March 5 march from the American History Museum to the Capitol in Washington, DC.
“We have to send a message that we are unafraid,” Ruiz told VICE Impact as she prepared to march. “They think they can bury us, but they didn’t know we are seeds and we are going to blossom. We are strong and resilient and we will continue to fight.”
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Ruiz was arrested last month for obstructing the cafeteria in Congress, and she spent a few hours in detention.
“It was scary,” she admitted. “But it was for my people. I spent my oldest son’s birthday in D.C. last month because I don’t want to have to spend more birthdays away from him.”
That’s what she fears would happen if she were to lose her status. Her three children are U.S. citizens, and just as her parents sacrificed everything to give her opportunities, she says she probably wouldn’t bring her children back to Mexico even if she were deported.
"It’s hard to focus on studies or try to make something of yourself with these fears. March 5 is one of those things. What’s going to happen after today?”
Judith Huerta, a 27-year-old from Oklahoma who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a child, is completing her certification to become a school principal. She works with students and families everyday who are, like her, uncertain about their futures.
“It’s not just about the deadline,” Huerta told VICE Impact. “People are going through so many things, and this adds to it… It’s hard to focus on studies or try to make something of yourself with these fears. March 5 is one of those things. What’s going to happen after today?”
Now, organizations like the ACLU, MoveOn, and United We Dream are coming together to help find an answer to that question. On March 4, the groups launched a new initiative that aims to use President Trump’s own words to hold him accountable and urge the administration to protect dreamers.
“Their lives are on the line, and we have to fight like that,” said Shakir. “We have an imperative to fight. This is an issue that generally has strong bipartisan support. But people get wrapped up in other things, and this doesn’t stay at the forefront of people’s minds. But we are doing everything we can to make sure this is a front and center issue.”
Advertisements airing on stations like Fox News are designed to engage people in this debate, and to remind them of the promises that Trump made. Shakir has a list of all the things Trump has said in support of Dreamers, and they plan to use those words to hold him accountable.
“This was a deadline that Trump created, and he has again let the American people down. We need to put heat on him for that, or he will walk away having killed a dream.”
“Trump said ‘The Dreamers should rest easy’,” said Shakir. “He said ‘My base feels that these 800,000 young people should not be thrown out of the country’. We are going to call him on that rhetoric, because there’s been no action.”
And the March 5 deadline, Shakir says, never needed to be set at all.
“This was a deadline that Trump created, and he has again let the American people down,” said Shakir. “We need to put heat on him for that, or he will walk away having killed a dream.”
If enough people call their members of Congress and remind them of the overwhelming bipartisan support for DACA recipients, they will hopefully put pressure on Trump. At the very least, Trump could simply extend this arbitrary deadline until after November.
“It’s not ideal because a legislative solution would give more comfort and peace of mind to dreamers,” said Shakir, “but at the very least this would take them out of immediate harm’s way, and the president can do that.”
One huge consequence that the March 5 deadline created was to turn these 800,000 people into a collective bargaining chip, and the stakes that are being gambled are inhumanely high.
“We aren’t going to take a deal that is going to harm our communities,” said Ruiz. “I don’t want to get something at the expense of my family or my neighbors. That’s not fair. Vulnerable as we are, undocumented, we are going to show up and stand on the right side of history.”
Call your member of Congress to keep the pressure on, and sign this petition to support dreamers .