The founder of an Atlanta production company reflects on the stress of thinking that all she has built could have gone away had SCOTUS failed differently on DACA.
GEORGIA — As soon as the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to reject Trump’s administration order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), an array of emotions set in for DREAMers across the country. They were in shock, they cried, they were happy — but most of all, they were relieved. They no longer feared being deported at any given minute.
Sam Herrera, a 34-year-old resident of Atlanta, says she has always had what she calls an immigrant mindset to figure out things as they come. With or without DACA, she’s been successful at making the best out of her situation even with odds stacked against her. This time around, while her life depended on the nine Justices in D.C., the waiting had been painful.
Seven months ago, Herrera, other DREAMers, and immigration advocates stood on the steps of the Supreme Court as the Justices heard the arguments — the plea to save DACA. From that day on, an excruciating started.
“I just have so much anxiety,” Herrera said to The Americano before the decision was announced. “I really don’t know because it could go either way. Nobody really knows, and so there’s this feeling of hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst.”
Herrera, CEO, and founder of Atlanta-based production company OffThaRecord, wasn’t just worried about her future, but the fate of her young U.S.-born son and her employees.
Since she started OffThaRecord five years ago, Herrera has employed 65 people as freelancers, part-time, and full-time employees. As a content creator, most of her work can be done digitally, which meant that she was fortunate enough to have even more business during the coronavirus outbreak. Herrera didn’t have any layoffs at her company.
Yet through this period of uncertainty, working through a pandemic, and a social justice uprising, Herrera had no choice but to start planning ahead. She had to prepare for a life outside of the United States in case the decision didn’t go her way. So she began examining what her life would be like in Mexico City — a place she left when she was just six years old.
“I started talking to a lot of different friends that live in Mexico City,” Herrera says, “and for me, it’s important to do research and think about what would happen if DACA was taken away.”
Herrera noted that she had just received an approval letter stating that her DACA benefits would again be reinstated and protect her against deportation for another two years. She said the application had a clause that said she had DACA protection “unless terminated.”
“For me, that was a reality check,” Herrera says. “I don’t know what my future in this country looks like. I don’t know what the future of my business in his country looks like, but I’ve started researching Mexico City and thinking about what that would look like moving back to the place that I left when I was six years old. I’m thinking, ‘If I relocate my business, can I still do business virtually?’”
Her research included what her life and that of her son would be like if she were to be in another country. She’s looked into dual citizenship for her son, as well as schools, and tried to figure out how would co-parenting work with her son’s father living in a different country.
Trying to determine the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision on DACA felt close to impossible. On the one hand, the Supreme Court now has a 5-4 conservative majority; on the other, that same Court recently reaffirmed the protection of gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination by a 6-3 vote, indicating that nothing was set in stone. A surprising poll, conducted by Politico, shows that a large majority of Trump voters are in favor of protecting DREAMers regardless of gender, education, income, ethnicity, religion, and ideology. But how long will this good news last?
Related: What it Means to Be Undocumented
According to The Hill, Trump was expected to file a plan to rescind the DACA program once again. A move that was supposedly intended to coincide during the visit with Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Herrera said this back-and-forth game that the Trump administration is doing over the DACA program shows the fragility of it.
“The program has never been a long term solution,” Herrera said. “It is important now more than ever to pass bipartisan legislation that will provide a pathway to citizenship not only for DACA recipients but for all immigrants. We have been riding this roller coaster for far too long. It is inhumane to treat people like bargaining chips and political pawns. “
For now, however, Herrera is rejoicing in the DACA victory at the Supreme Court.
“We celebrate winning this battle,” Herrera says. “I am reminded of the chants I heard as I documented Dreamers marching to Washington to fight, ‘When we fight. We win!’ Although I am happy, emotional, and hopeful, I am also aware that this is not the end. No one is free until we all are free. The fight continues for all 11 million of our undocumented immigrants, for the kids separated from their parents in cages, and for the dismantling of systemic racism and injustice that oppresses Black communities.”