KENNETT SQUARE >> Lucero Cortes, who arrived in the United States from Mexico in 2015, just earned her General Equivalency Diploma after enrolling in adult literacy classes at the Kennett Library.
She began studying English in April, and passed four exams – Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Math. And she just enrolled in four classes at Delaware County Community College, and envisions a bright career, after being told that people who work hard in America can achieve greatness.
But her plans could be derailed by the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Program (DACA). She is one of nearly 6,000 DACA recipients in Pennsylvania – and one of 600,000 in America -- whose future and opportunity to fully contribute to their communities is threatened by Trump’s decision to end the program.
When Trump announced the end of the program, he put in place a six-month delay on expiring protections by allowing any recipient whose DACA expires by March 5 until Thursday to apply for a two-year renewal. According to data provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, about one in five people eligible to renew hadn’t done so yet. Many of those who did not renew cited fears that the government would use the updated details to identify them for law-enforcement purposes.
“The Trump Administration’s refusal to make a good faith effort to inform DACA recipients of their eligibility for an extension puts thousands of young people at risk,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, president of Latino Victory Project. “Congress must act immediately to pass the bipartisan Dream Act and provide undocumented youth with a permanent solution.”
On Friday, Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell and Kennett Square Matt Fetick called for lawmakers to enact a legislative solution to protect children whose parents came to America illegally. They both urged Pennsylvania congressmen Ryan Costello and Brian Fitzpatrick to support the Dream Act, a bill in Congress that would grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and went to school here.
“In Chester County, our values support taking care of our neighbors and taking care of our community,” Maxwell said. “Children being taken out of our community does not support those values. Now more than ever we need our congressmen to be courageous. The quickest way to do that is to support the Dream Act. We must protect the children brought here through no fault of their own.”
The Senate version of the Dream Act, introduced in July 2017, allows current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a three-step pathway to U.S. citizenship through college, work, or the armed services.
Fetick, the mayor of a municipality that is about 50 percent Hispanic, said DACA recipients have the right to remain in America and there should be a solid path for them to legal citizenship.
“Nowhere should we hold people accountable for the sins of their fathers,” Fetick said. “I don’t believe we should have kids living in any type of fear. Kids should not be waking up in the morning wondering whether they will be deported and their families ripped apart. That is not who we are as a country.”
Armando Jimenez, a DACA recipient, and community organizer at Make the Road PA, an organization for low-income and working class Latino immigrants to fight for change in their communities, said the immigration system is broken.
“I am fighting for all undocumented immigrants,” Jimenez said. “I don’t believe our parents sinned by coming to this country. And I don’t’ want a Dream Act that will jeopardize parents.”
Meanwhile, Cortez, who lives in the Kennett Square area, is pursuing her post high-school studies and has enrolled in four classes at Delaware County Community College, with the goal of beginning a new career. She is currently a hair stylist at Nueva Imagen in Kennett Square.