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Portland State Student With DACA Deferral Prepares For Uncertain Future

Liliana Luna on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

Liliana Luna on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

During the presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump promised to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. He can do that without Congressional approval.

DACA was an executive action by President Obama that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children to live without fear of deportation.

The disappearance of DACA would affect around 750,000 people, including Liliana Luna. She’s a student at Portland State University, and she’s the coordinator of the Multicultural Center at the PCC Rock Creek campus.

Luna spoke with OPB’s “Morning Edition” Host Geoff Norcross.

Q&A with Liliana Luna

Geoff Norcross: Where were you brought to this country from, and when?

Liliana Luna: I know the exact day, because it was my parents’ anniversary: Dec. 19, 2005, from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, the border with Texas.

Norcross: When did you get your DACA deferral?

Luna: I got approved April 2013, but I applied October 2012. So it took about 5-6 months to get approved, because I had been arrested for a civil disobedience, so I think that they held me accountable for that. [laughs]

Norcross: But you got your deferral. What did you do then? How did you take advantage of this new privilege that you had?

Luna: Before DACA, I was thinking to go into motivational speaking and write a book or something. But I always wanted to do anything in relationship with jails and prisons, because I was very interested in how our community was being misrepresented in the criminal justice system. So when I got DACA, I decided to change my major completely, and I went into Criminal Justice, thinking that I was going to be working in the jail system or prison system.

Norcross: Why did your DACA referral change your mind?

Luna: Because I was going to be able pass background checks with a Social Security number, and I was going to be able to work for the government one way or the other.

Norcross: So you wouldn’t have gone on this path if it weren’t for that program?

Luna: Not at all. And I don’t think that I would have been able to afford college at all.

Norcross: As we speak, President Trump has not yet signed an order rescinding DACA. His spokesman says their priority is going after criminals who are in the country illegally. But that’s not you. Does that put your mind at ease at all?

Luna: I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I think that it is a scary thing to think about. At the same time, I think that we come from communities that have done so much work, and we’re always fighting and we’ll fight back and we’ll continue fighting.

What is more concerning is that he’s playing with our existence. That’s horrible. And also, under President Obama we had the Secure Communities program that was also criminalizing people that didn’t have a background record. I mean, he can say one thing, but immigration officers have a lot of discretion to go after families that are innocent and haven’t committed any crimes. So it is very concerning.

Norcross: If President Trump does rescind the order and DACA goes away, what do you do?

Luna: I lose my job. I lose my career. I don’t know. It’s sad. I think the system was playing with my mind, and internalizing a lot of the stuff that was going on and I called my Dad. And I said, “This is what’s going on and I feel really concerned, not only for me but for you all,” for my parents. He gave me a very good listen, saying you know, “We came to the United States with nothing. We did not have anything. We did not have a house, we did not have a job, we did not have documents. And look at you. Look at where you’re at. And you can do this again, and we will do this again over and over again, as long as we stay together.” And that gave me a lot of hope.

That’s what I’m trying to tell my students as well, that the fighting is not over, and this is not over. There is more, and we will continue to fight for what we think is right.

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