By Marielena Castellanos
At this time last year, Francisco Peralta Vargas recalls he didn’t know what would happen to his life.
“Forget it, when they tell you from night to day to say goodbye to everything you have planned, say goodbye to your work permit, goodbye to your job, you can no longer have a stable job anymore, you can’t pay your rent, you can’t pay your bills,” Vargas said.
Vargas, a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, had just come back to San Diego after celebrating a friend’s wedding in Perris, California, when the news broke President Trump intended to rescind the program.
Vargas a fulltime student decided to drop out of all his classes.
“I wasn’t sure what would happen, if I was going to end up deported, without a job, I had to make as much as I could, with this anti-immigrant administration I had to prepare myself for the worst,” Vargas said.
Her remembers dozens gathering in the evening together last year at the San Diego County Administration building, the same place were many gathered again this year, after the Trump administration has continued efforts to end the program.
Vargas described last year as bittersweet.
“It was too fast and cruel because they did it to about 800,000 people in the country, and most of the people in DACA are people who go to school, people who work, people with clean records, people who have lived here since they were children, many of whom don’t know the countries where they came from.”
That gathering which included a number of DACA recipients led to the formation of San Diego Border Dreamers and it also changed his life.
“I’m not happy about what happened, but it did make a lot of people wake up.”
Vargas added since that time the group has been busy putting pressure on congressional representatives, city council members, participating in different marches, even traveling to Washington D.C. to directly meet with dozens of U.S. Senators.
This week the group continued their efforts holding a rally at the same place on the same day as they did a year ago renewing the commitment to continue pushing for permanent protections for undocumented immigrants.
“We want to use this day to push this movement so the people at the White House and the rest of Congress knows, we are not afraid, we are here, we are going to continue here,” Dulce Garcia an immigration attorney and one of the directors of San Diego Border Dreamers told the crowd during the rally.
Uncertainty remains for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the tens of thousands of young people protected under the policy even after a federal judge ruled it could continue.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen denied a request for a preliminary injunction on the program, giving DACA recipients a win, but he also said it could eventually be found unlawful.
“Here, the egg has been scrambled,” Hanen also wrote. “To try to put it back in the shell with only a preliminary injunction record, and perhaps at great risk to many, does not make sense nor serve the best interests of this country,” Judge Hanen said.
The ruling came days before the one-year mark when President Donald Trump rescinded the program one year ago, this week.
The judge also said the responsibility to keep DACA belongs to Congress, “DACA is a popular program and one that Congress should consider saving,” Hanen continued. “If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”
At the rally Garcia also addressed the lawsuit.“We sued the President and thanks to our efforts we won an order in court, where we can renew our DACA permits. It wasn’t because of politicians, it wasn’t because the politicians had compassion for us, nor was it because this administration had a heart, it happened because we sued. But it’s not enough. We still need permanent protections,” Garcia said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led several states in the lawsuit against DACA, was pleased with the ruling and said in a statement, “Our lawsuit is vital to restoring the rule of law to our nation’s immigration system.”
Last September in a statement explaining the decision to rescind DACA, President Trump said, “I do not favor punishing children.”
But he also said, “Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers.”
Trump added, “The decades-long failure of Washington, D.C. to enforce federal immigration law has had both predictable and tragic consequences: lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called DACA “unilateral executive amnesty.” He also said DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”
In response to Trump’s announcement last year, former President Barack Obama responded then with a statement on Facebook and called Trump’s decision to end the program “cruel” and “self-defeating.”
Back in 2012, President Obama circumvented Congress by using his executive powers to allow about 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants to work legally and stay in the country without fear of deportation.
During the rally Garcia reminded the group it was people like themselves who pushed Obama into action.
“We won it because there were youth getting arrested, risking everything, their livelihoods, their lives, their families, everything to win DACA,” Garcia said.
Three federal judges have also blocked the administration from ending DACA.
Alex Montoya who is originally from Colombia also spoke at the rally, “I am a proud immigrant.”
Montoya stressed the need for unity.
“We need to continue to come together to fight the tyranny that we are seeing in the White House today and make sure they know it is not their land, it’s not his land, it’s our land, and we will reclaim it.”
Those at the rally also welcomed ‘Dream Riders’ a group spearheaded by young organizers with the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and affiliates, who completed a campaign riding bicycles from Seattle to San Diego to advocate for a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.
It is expected Texas Attorney General Paxton will appeal the ruling. If his appeal is moved forward, the U.S. Supreme Court could ultimately determine the case.
Vargas meanwhile, did return to school, graduated from a community college with an associate’s degree and was accepted into UC San Diego late last year to obtain a degree in international business and international studies.
One year later, resolved, and without fear Vargas also speaks with hope in his voice.
“I can happily say we are strong and continue ahead to find a permanent solution.”