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DREAMing of a solution

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration scrapped DACA. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque1 / 2
Williams Ortiz Arizmendi was brought to the United States when he was nine years old. He now faces the fear of having to return to his roots in Veracruz, Mexico. Photo by Lisa Dankers2 / 2

Many of us have never had the thought of deportation cross our minds. After what the Trump administration decided last week, deportation is something that now weighs heavily on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals designees.

In six months, about 800,000 undocumented immigrants could potentially lose everything they worked for in the United States. More than 6,000 DACA recipients live in Minnesota, according to the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota. Of those, 25 live in Red Wing and about 15 more in other areas of Goodhue County.

In 2012, the Obama administration created DACA. The program gave children who were brought to the country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation as well as the ability to study, work and obtain a driver's license. The reason behind the legislation was to help protect innocent minors who were brought to the country without any say in the matter.

First introduced in 2001, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act was part of a legislative bill that Congress never approved. The name stuck and DACA recipients are often referred to as "Dreamers."

Not giving up hope

Williams Ortiz Arizmendi came to Minnesota from El Viejon, a small village in Mexico, when he was 9 years old. Arizmendi's father moved him to Red Wing in order to pursue a promising education. Both brother Carlos, 9, and sister Dayana, 6, are American-born citizens.

"You hear these stories a lot," said Lucy Richardson, Hispanic Outreach of Goodhue County executive director. "I've been here 19 years and I recall when I came with my sister and my brother-in-law. Back in those days I met couple of Hispanic men and they were all alone. That's typically what you see. Later on he brings his family here."

Arizmendi started fourth grade in Red Wing with little understanding of the native language.

"The first year was really hard, I didn't speak English," Arizmendi said. "It wasn't until 2012 when I was a senior in high school that I heard to apply for DACA."

After waiting in line for four hours for a free consultation, Arizmendi applied for DACA and waited two months to hear back on his approval from the government.

"It was a long, scary process," Arizmendi said. "They kept saying 'This doesn't grant anything, this is just a process.' After that, it took about two months until they sent me a letter saying I've been accepted."

During the process, Arizmendi also applied and was later approved for a work permit. His first job was on a farm with his dad milking cows. Today Arizmendi works as the program and services coordinator at Hispanic Outreach and does a few cleaning jobs on the side.

Arizmendi has spent his time in Red Wing establishing a secure foundation, even with some of his family unable to speak English. But now he is unsure what the future may hold.

"Since I'm not a risk taker, I'm starting to shift ideas on what I'm going to do. I wanted to be a lab tech. I have to stop that thinking ... put on hold. I'm afraid to go back," he said.

On Sept. 5, when President Donald Trump moved to put a stop to DACA, he put the ball in Congress's court by pushing the House and Senate to pass a replacement before the six-month deadline. Trump also stated in a Tweet that he will "revisit this issue" if another similar program is not put in place by that time.

Former President Barack Obama, whose administration built DACA, stated on Facebook, "Whatever concerns or complaints American's may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us."

With two siblings born in the U.S., Arizmendi is not sure who would stay here and who would come with him if he's forced to move home. After reading the news following the Trump administration's decision, Arizmendi said he was hurt by a statement by Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa.

"You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies. You've got to keep your birth rate up and that you need to teach your children your values." King goes on to say that by doing so, a population can become stronger.

The next six months hold a lot of concern for not only Arizmendi, but a large group of Dreamers who have no idea what could happen next.

"To say you can't build on somebody else's children, when that is exactly what happened when the Europeans came over and built everything ... it's very hypocritical," Arizmendi said.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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