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Dreamers, DACA and 'Democracy in Peril'

Calvin Pynn

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was at the center of this month’s “Democracy in Peril” session Tuesday, Feb. 27 at James Madison University.  WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.

Last night’s discussion focused on the fight to keep Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals - or DACA - from being terminated, but through the context of mass deportations in U.S. history. JMU professor Daniel Morales explains that history.

DANIEL MORALES: When the Great Depression came, public opinion sharply turned against Mexican immigrants. Mexicans were blamed for unemployment, communities turned on them. Citizenship did not save somebody in the 1930s.

There are 38,000 undocumented youths in Virginia, just over 12,000 of which are DACA approved. One of those recipients, local community organizer Isabel Castillo, spoke during the session, explaining her experience with the program, and of others that rely on DACA as well.

ISABEL CASTILLO: DACA has helped many youth in our community go to college and afford it, even though we don’t qualify for federal financial aid. So no, we’re not taking peoples' resources because we don’t qualify for those resources.

Morales and JMU Communications Professor Carlos Alemán explained that while the current fight for DACA is about the changing demographics in the United States, the situation, like similar events in the past, is about the larger issue of immigration

Calvin Pynn is a radio reporter, writer, and photographer based in Harrisonburg, Virginia.