Phoenix—The morning after the election, Abril Gallardo was driving down the streets of Phoenix to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for a celebration. Gallardo, 26, was a lead organizer of Bazta Arpaio, a campaign to unseat the county’s notorious sheriff, Joe Arpaio, after 23 years in office. Bazta Arpaio was successful, and organizers and activists were gathering for a press conference.
“But I feel scared,” Gallardo said. “I saw people walking around, and I kept thinking: ‘I wonder who that person voted for. I wonder if that person voted for Trump.’”
Gallardo is a beneficiary of President Obama’s single and most successful pro-immigrant initiative, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program gives young people who immigrated to the United States as the children of undocumented parents a short-term protection from deportation. It also gives Dreamers, as people like Gallardo are often called, work permits and the authorization to drive. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to end the program, and he’ll have the authority to do just that.
Gallardo’s DACA status is up for renewal in December. She’s been gearing up to transfer to Arizona State University in January. “The first thing I did when I got DACA [four years ago] was, I went back to school,” Gallardo said. She enrolled at Phoenix Community College and will get her associate’s degree in December. Now she’s all set to make the big jump to the state school.
“But right now,” she said, her voice shaking, “I don’t even know if… if that’s even going to be possible.”
DACA has allowed undocumented young people like Gallardo, who otherwise are counted as international students, to be counted as residents of their home states and thus to pay in-state tuition, which can be as much as one-third to one-half of what they would otherwise pay. Some 700,000 undocumented immigrants across the country have taken advantage of the program. Though narrow and short-term, it has been a lifeline for Gallardo and others like her. And in the past four years, she hasn’t just been going to school; she’s been working, and saving.
“We were super-excited because, in December, I was going to start my process to become a homeowner,” Gallardo said. She had plans to call brokers and review her savings and her credit score with them. She wanted to buy a home for her parents, who are also undocumented. “But now that all might change.” As we spoke, Gallardo wiped away a steady flow of tears. “Despite the fact that I’m not going to be able to go to school, the fear that my family could be separated is bigger than all of that.”
Gallardo is hardly alone in her fears. This is where so many of the people who were targets of Donald Trump’s xenophobic, misogynistic, downright racist campaign now find themselves: in the crosshairs and feeling not just vulnerable, but targeted.