Deferred Action and Deportation: Latinos and Obama

Nineteen-year-old  cousins Luis Hernandez (left) and Jonathan Perez (right) have dealt firsthand with the controversy surrounding President Obama's policies toward Latino immigrants. (Photo by: Jason Jaacks)

Nineteen-year-old cousins Luis Hernandez (left) and Jonathan Perez (right) have dealt firsthand with the controversy surrounding President Obama's policies toward Latino immigrants. (Photo by: Jason Jaacks)

In this year’s dead heat presidential election, both candidates are vying for the Latino vote.

Last Tuesday, President Obama told Iowa’s Des Moines Register that his re-election rests in the hands of Latino voters.

Jonathan Perez is one of those voters. The 19-year-old will cast his first vote for Obama on Nov. 6., but two weeks ago, he found himself face-to-face with the contradictions of the Obama administration’s immigration positions when his cousin, Luis Hernandez*, 19 and undocumented, faced the threat of deportation.

“You hear about it, but you don’t expect it to happen to anyone in your family and someone you love,” Perez said.

The way this tension is resolved in individual voters might be critical to how many Latinos show up to the polls on Election Day, and how they vote. Most Latinos support the president, but doing so requires some mental gymnastics: the Obama administration has deported undocumented immigrants at a record level but also passed legislation that will allow undocumented youth a chance to stay in the country legally.

According to a study released by the Pew Hispanic Center earlier this month, 61 percent of Latinos view the Democratic Party as one that has more concern for Latinos, while only 10 percent view the Republican Party this way.

But support for the president is not so black and white. According to Arturo Carmona, Director of Presente.org, an online community devoted to raising the Latino political voice, Latinos are becoming independents faster than any other community. “It’s a clear indication that political parties have a long way to go. The rhetoric and policy of the GOP are very anti-Latino. On the other end, we haven’t seen too many friendly policies from Obama,” Carmona said.

The president made great strides with Latinos in recent months when he passed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). That is the program Perez’s cousin was applying for when he was arrested.

Image of football players

“Thankfully the person handling my case, took into account that I have been here my whole life,” Luis Hernandez said. (Photo by: Jason Jaacks)

Hernandez had spent the night drinking with friends, when he decided to drive his car home. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital and a police officer placing him under arrest.

He was taken to the county jail in Martinez, where he was told that because of his undocumented status, he was being placed under an immigration hold. “They know what they’re in there for,” Hernandez said of his fellow inmates at the county jail. “My consequence is much worse. I get taken out of the country.”

From Martinez, Hernandez was passed to the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility where he stayed until 3 a.m. on a Monday morning, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers took him to a separate facility in San Francisco. There, with his hands and feet chained together, he awaited his fate.

Contra Costa County participates in the nationwide Secure Communities program, a fingerprint sharing network between the FBI and ICE that notifies federal agencies when local police arrest an undocumented immigrant.

Secure Communities has led to the national rise in deportation levels, which started during the Bush administration and intensified through Obama’s leadership, said Lisa Garcia Bedolla, chairwoman of the Center for Latino Policy Research at the University of California at Berkeley.

It was Secure Communities that brought Hernandez to San Francisco, where he prayed for a lucky break.

At the detention facility there, an officer approached Hernandez and asked him how long he had lived in the country. He told the officer that he arrived in the U.S. at the age of three, and has very little memory of his life before then.

“Thankfully the person handling my case, took into account that I have been here my whole life,” Hernandez said, “and it would be pointless to drop me off in the middle of Mexico if I have no family or anything there.”

The officer also recognized that Hernandez would qualify for DACA and let him go on the condition that he file his paperwork.

“Deferred action is important from a symbolic standpoint,” said Berkeley’s Lisa Garcia Bedolla. She said she recognizes that many critics view DACA as a temporary fix that is fraught with risk. But even a temporary fix will help to alleviate the unique stresses that many undocumented youth face, she said.

Image of football players

“You hear about it, but you don’t expect it to happen to anyone in your family and someone you love,” said Jonathan Perez about his cousin’s threat of deportation. (Photo by: Jason Jaacks)

Hernandez and Perez view DACA as a sign of a more positive future for the nation’s undocumented Latinos.

Like his cousin, Perez has had his own struggle with law enforcement. Growing up in a single-parent immigrant household was difficult, Perez said, and led him to fill his early teenage years with selling drugs and stealing cars. After nearly a year on the run for evading house arrest, Perez turned himself in and reformed during a one-month stint in jail.

Now, he fills his days working with Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, where he remains active in civic engagement and the group’s prisoner reentry effort. He will vote for the first time this year, and views the president’s record level of deportations as a way to keep his opponents “content” while he works to prepare the framework for more comprehensive immigration reform, which Perez believes the president will pass during his second term.

In the meantime, while his cousin Luis Hernandez awaits his DACA approval, Perez works to encourage other Latinos with the power to vote to turn out on Election Day.

“There are so many people out there that wish they could vote so why would I take that for granted?” Perez said. “I have felt how it feels to have your rights and everything be taken from you and not be able to do anything about it. So now that I have my freedom, I take advantage of everything I can. But at the same time I don’t take it for granted.”

Even without a vote, Hernandez is still rooting for an Obama victory.

“What he did helped me out, and there must be millions of other kids in my situation who have been helped out by this,” he said.

*Individual’s name has been changed at his request due to privacy concerns.

3 Comments

  1. Dave Francis

    California is a Sanctuary State for illegal aliens, shielded by a Liberal Governor Jerry Brown, and a near Socialist Sacramento assembly, that have an outrageous nerve to ask for more money for education. The school system is drowned in illegal alien children, which are forced on the taxpayers by the courts in uncompensated financial requirements. A state measure 30, a so called temporary tax to fund schools and 38 which is another measure for even extra funding for schools to employ thousands of more teachers is a ridiculous burden. This is the never ending cycle when California voters are being scammed to empty their pocket books. This is just another travesty of an educational system broken, as more of the taxpayers money is just be absorbed to pay for the overcrowded schools, but not just in California, but across the 50 states to pay for the education of illegal alien children. Just go into the schools in Los Angeles, and half the staff in the office is bilingual and the classrooms are overloaded with kids who can hardly comprehend English. It surprised me before I left California that the school my son was in, that an American flag was even flying?

    Californians or come to that, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico in the Southwest need more tax money, but the issue is it just attracts illegal migrant and immigrant females in smuggling a large majority of unborn babies across borders or on international flights. The American federation of Immigration Reform (FAIR) in a report estimates that over 400.000 babies are smuggled into America annually through this method. All those children receive free delivery and as they are credited with immediate citizenship, the parent or parents are able to settle here for good. This is a carefully orchestrated situation that the politicians say little about, as they have already been coerced by the migrant organizations as the radical La Raza, Communist founded groups as the ACLU. The smuggling of the unborn is the origination of the children of the Dream Act. Hundreds of billions of dollars are needed every year, because the parents recognize the more children they conceive, the more difficult it is to deport them. Then even should the parents leave the child is still a holder of a U.S. passport and can return at a later date.

    At the age of 18 they can their sponsor the parents, as then they are supposedly are able to financially support them. In most cases this is seldom happens in perpetuity, for then the parents are then catered to by the U.S. government after the sponsors no longer keeps them financially stable. Now enter–“THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP ACT, which will eliminate these entries, so at least one parent must have valid citizenship, for the child to gain citizenship. This would be very financially beneficial to U.S. taxpayers that would halt this activity, and would save over 100 billion dollars a year. This law will bring to halt illegal aliens bringing their children here to take advantage of our health services, educational system and many more free programs with cash benefits. Our borders still remain wide open in many places, including Canada for the illegal importation of drugs and people. For the record an estimate of a million legal immigrants are admitted to this nation each year, but we should recognize in this global market we should allow a steady stream of the paramount top list of Scientists, Technology, Engineering and mathematicians (STEM WORKERS) who would be highly beneficial to Americas future. What we don’t need are more people with no qualification, no education and adding to our own people who live in poverty.

    Under another Obama 4 year administration is a promise to the 20 million plus illegal aliens a Path to Citizenship. So not only illegal aliens will be tempted to vote for the man, but many will and Democrats will intentionally stay oblivious. The cost according to the Heritage Foundation is well over TWO TRILLION DOLLARS to complete the process, which includes Social Security, Supplementary Social Security, retirement, pensions, health care, education and other different financial programs; much of it paid for by taxpayers. At a working age, American citizens begin paying for their retirement, having paid into these systems, but illegal migrants and immigrants in the majority have not? In fact they are even fraudulently using their children to collect 4.6 Billion dollars in child credits, which this government and probably the previous ones don’t think its worth prosecuting?

    Adding further to restrictions THE LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT (E-Verify) should also be implemented, so businesses and the agricultural industry can no longer just hire illegal workers without penal implications and harsh fines. As we need temporary workers, then a fully regulated system should be installed as it was with the 1940’s “Bracero” Program. This worked well, but greedy politicians in collusion with the business community closed it down. Now we have a corrupt system that has been highlighted by many companies being raided by ICE and the owners punished. So getting back to the California state voting measures and probably in other states, illegal immigration is a very expensive situation, which needs a solution? But its not being continually taxed to pay for the illegal entry of illegal aliens and their children. Honest immigrants wait years to get an entry visa, while the other types get rewarded by Washington and individual states with a cornucopia of free welfare programs. The Legal Workforce bill could drive illegal aliens home, as if they cannot be hired, then they will leave. Instead of listening to my personal suggestions, go to TEA PARTY.ORG, NumbersUSA and JudicialWatch.org and you can judge the absolute financial negative effects of illegal immigration. Remember–this November its illegal and a felony for non citizens to vote.

  2. Idaglia Flórez

    It is true limitless compassion when we view our histories as an intricately interwoven tapestry of hope. We are Democrates because We Never Forget the struggle that our parents, grandparent, great grandparents suffered in making a better life for their children.

    My Great Grandmother Enriquez arrived to Mexico in the 1590 from the Canary Islands, a halfway refuge and port-o-call for Sephardic jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition. She was being exiled because of her religious practices, her religious beliefs.

    In my family, we also have arab blood in the Medina clan as well as basque as noted in the Munguia and Mendieta families. In all my family’s histories, all my family clans were leaving oppression behind in hopes of a better life for their children generations to come.

    Yet, the struggle continues.

    But, we know the Dave Francis response is simply NOT TRUE. Common sense nullifies his hatred and misinformation. I could try to explain this to him but like all others that display their hatred in preventing a unified country, well, they have built walls. Ultimately, its not necessary to waste our energy in anger.

    Instead, as the Minority Majority we stand in support of our undocumented allies

    President Obama is a good and trustworthy friend and leader. He emulates an unlimited amount of compassion. Do Not Dismay, he has had to cover an insurmountable number of issues in a 3.5 year presidency whereupon the GOP Stonewalling Pact has in it’s own actions spelled out their fascist stance on doing all possible in seeing to it that our president fail.

    In a twisted bit of sweet revenge, the GOP’s John Sununu, admited that Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama was because he is black. Shows how the GOP instigates blame on minorities blaming us as pulling the race card on any issue. They have twisted and slammed us all in all fronts, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Muslims and all other peoples or various races.

    Así que a los que se han registrado, hijos, hijas, padres, abuelos . . .

    VOTEN POR PRESIDENTE OBAMA ESTE NOVIEMBRE 6. Y PASENLO AS SUS AMIGOS Y AMIGAS Y FAMILIA.

    ¡ O B A M A N O S !

  3. Idaglia Flórez

    HERMANDAD

    Homenaje a Claudio Ptolomeo

    Soy, hombre: duro poco
    y es enorme la noche.
    Pero miro hacia arriba
    las estrellas escriben.
    Sin entender comprendo:
    también soy escritura
    y en este mismo instante
    alguien me deletrea

    — Octavio Paz

    BROTHERHOOD

    Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

    I am a man: little do I last
    and the night is enormous.
    But I look up:
    the stars write.
    Unknowing I understand.
    I too am written,
    and at this very moment
    someone spells me out.

    — Octavio Paz

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