By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
On Monday, several San Diegans gathered in front of the Westfield Horton Plaza shopping mall to hold a vigil for the seven “Dreamers” and one ally that were arrested while protesting on Capitol Hill on Dec. 15.
Vigil attendees and individuals who recently lost protection under the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, shared their personal stories, sang, and prayed for the wellbeing of the detained Dreamers.
The vigil was lead by Dreamer and immigration and criminal defense attorney Dulce Garcia. She was also on a hunger strike since Friday, in support of the detained Dreamers.
Garcia refers to the seven Dreamers as “warriors” because they are an inspiration for her.
“Me giving up a piece of cake is nothing compared to what they’re going though in jail so they are my motivation,” Garcia said.
Garcia, who was brought to the United States as a minor, did not understand her undocumented status until she was in the process of applying to college.
Although she faced several obstacles because of her status, she attended college, graduated from UC San Diego and eventually law school. She currently owns her own law firm and has two offices in San Diego.
Garcia said she believes the seven Dreamers are making a statement that is encouraging other organizations to join the cause.
“I think we are close to (a decision on DACA) and I think we’re making a powerful statement in the next few days with warriors like these ones,” she said.
Garcia spoke to the crowd at the vigil and through tears expressed her frustration that Dreamers do not have an answer since President Donald Trump ended the program in September.
On Dec. 7, Congress passed a short-term spending bill to extend their deadline from Dec. 8 to Dec. 22 to approve a spending bill in an effort to avoid a government shutdown because some Democrats expressed that they would vote against any spending bill that does not include an answer for the Dreamers.
The seven individuals who previously had protection from deportation and work permits under DACA, were demanding that members of Congress block any spending bill that does not include a “clean Dream Act,” according to a Fight for our Dream press release.
According to the release, the seven Dreamers and one ally planned on holding a jail strike by withholding identification information from law enforcement and therefore facing the possibility of deportation.
Erika Andiola, Belen Sisa, Hector Jairo Martinez, Cata Santiago, Barbara Hernandez, Li Adorno, and Juan Carlos Carabantes are the seven Dreamers and Jeffrey Fuentes.
“Democratic leadership and Republicans who claim to support Dreamers have a choice,” Andiola said in the release. “They either fight to secure the votes needed to block any spending bill that doesn’t include a clean DREAM Act, or they chose to keep us in jail at risk of deportation.”