Karla Arredondo-Payan wants to keep helping her two younger brothers, who are American citizens. She wants to continue her career in nonprofits, pursue a master’s degree and stay in the home she owns in north Minneapolis.
But her status in the United States is precarious.
On Tuesday, she closely followed oral arguments on the fate of the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide next year the legality of President Donald Trump’s move to end Obama-era legal protections for immigrants like Arredondo-Payan who were brought into the country illegally as children. The court is expected to make a decision by June.
“I try not to worry, but constantly that’s on my mind now,” said Arredondo-Payan, 25, who is a community organizer with the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association. “I want to be focused on work … while at the same time trying to balance my own worries with DACA.”
The Trump administration argued that DACA was illegal and the government had the right to end it, and the conservative-majority court seemed poised to side with the president.
DACA recipients don’t currently have a path to citizenship, and they and their supporters are pushing for a permanent legal fix in Congress.
Emilia Gonzalez Avalos said they need a clear commitment from pro-immigrant policymakers for a sustainable solution for DACA recipients “so that their lives cannot be used as a bargaining chip every so often, every time it’s convenient. We are hopeful — we believe that the truth is on our side, we believe that the American public is on our side, and we also believe that the Constitution is on our side.”
She is executive director of Unidos-MN, where the majority of the staff is DACA recipients, though Avalos is not. The grassroots organization worked to pass the approval of DACA in 2012 and advocates for immigrant youth, most of them Latino.
Estefania Navarro, 25, lives in St. Paul and is a community organizer with the group.
Whatever the court decides, “it’s not going to get us — the immigrant community and DACA recipients — what we need and what we deserve, which is permanent protection from deportation and family reunification for all the families that have been deported,” said Navarro, who was brought here by her mother from Mexico in 2005.
Navarro said she wants to focus on building her community’s political power, making sure they are counted in the U.S. Census, registering eligible voters and supporting pro-immigrant candidates at presidential caucuses. She wants to see politicians elected who will defund U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“There’s of course the feeling of anxiety, but I think at this point what I’m starting to sense is this fear and hopelessness starting to turn into this fuel for action,” Navarro said. It’s been years of “us fighting for breadcrumbs, basically us begging this country to let us stay and work, when really we contribute and we do so much.”
She added: “This is about love, not anger. I love my community. I love Minnesota. And this is where I belong.”
In a statement, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota said Congress must act to give permanent protection to Dreamers, noting that 5,670 Minnesotans have DACA status.
On Tuesday, Arredondo-Payan was heartened to receive messages from friends to let her know they were thinking of her as the court case played out. She was brought here by her parents from Mexico at age 2 and has never been back. Now, Arredondo-Payan is trying to help her 21-year-old brother pay for college and be a role model to her 15-year-old brother, both of whom are American-born citizens.
She used to be afraid to share her immigration status, she said, but it needs to be heard.
“We’re just normal people trying to make an honest living. …This is the only place I’ve ever known,” she said.