By Giovanni Ochoa
Angel Barragan is a Spanish teacher at Summit Public School: Rainier in San Jose. He moved to the United States from Mexico when he was 10 years old. He has been protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA, for the past couple of years, and it being removed has affected him directly.
1. Do you think the life of immigrants has changed drastically in the past couple months?
“I think since the election of our new president, the lives of immigrants have gotten significantly worse. Or maybe not significantly, but more difficult because of the stigma that immigrants have right now. Whereas, with our previous president, it was a very safe place for us to be just around, but there’s a lot of negativity and a lot of hate that has sprung since.” Mr. Barragan went on to add that since Deferred Action was taken away, a lot of immigrants no longer have protection from deportation, making their lives more hectic.
2. Do you believe that all the talk currently revolving around immigrants has scared them from speaking out on the issue?
“Yes and no – I think it’s fifty-fifty. Pretty much there is a large group of immigrants that are becoming really empowered, and they’re becoming more outspoken to try to resist against what’s happening. That, and the voice of a lot of people that are allies to the immigrants, but there is another part of the same group that’s scared of something happening to them, so they’ve instead silenced themselves to try to keep themselves safe.”
3. How will the life of immigrants be affected in the future and their future kids?
“I think things are gonna get harder before they get any better. There needs to be some serious changes [and] some serious reform in order to help protect those immigrants that are being affected. I think if things continue the way they’re going with the hate and the misinformation, more people are going to be feeling isolated and be hurt before we’re able to get to a place of peace.”
4. Do you believe it is fair that immigrants were treated this way?
“No, I think it’s very unfair that anybody is being treated this way. I think it really speaks out especially when you think about the way that immigrants are being categorized right now. There are two ways to call somebody that comes from another country to the U.S. without proper documentation. One of them [is that] they’re usually called illegal aliens, illegal immigrants or they’re called undocumented (usually by a different group of people). I think using the term ‘illegal’ to call a group of immigrants sets the precedent for how they’re being treated badly. In the media, when you talk [about] incidents that are happening to people who are migrating here without proper documentation… something horrible happens and they just call them ‘illegals’. It kind of takes away the humanity to make it look like it’s OK [to say] a bunch of illegals died in the border. Right, it doesn’t even sound that bad because you don’t even think about them as people, but if you say a bunch of people died crossing the border, then you think about it differently. Like, ‘Oh snap, this is a big deal. People are being affected.’ Just starting with the way people are being called sets a precedent for the unfairness and the inhumanity of how they are being treated.”
5. How do you think the issues surrounding immigrants can be resolved? How can the community help?
“I think shining a light on the issues and clearing misinformation are two of the most important things that we can do right now. I would like to say that there should be a path to citizenship that should start tomorrow, but that is very unlikely. Things that we could do right now is clear the misinformation that is happening because there is a lot of information out there that is not true,” Mr. Barragan said. “[For example,] about the support that undocumented immigrants get … people are saying that we get a free pass to college, that we get food stamps and that we get this and that, which is just not true. We don’t get anything more. In fact, we actually get less than people who are actually born here, but people don’t know that. People are passing around these things like the idea that we are criminals or the idea that we’re here taking somebody else’s jobs or that we even have a home to go back to. This is the information that’s being passed through. Talking about my own experiences, if I were to leave the United States where would I go? I can’t go back to Mexico. I don’t know Mexico. I haven’t been there. My entire life has been here in the U.S., but people say, ‘Just go back to your country’ [or] ‘Just go back to your home,’ but this is my home. The other part is shining a light [on] people [who] are being affected in a way that is hard to comprehend. If that’s outside of your regular life understanding, that somebody may lose their job and may not be able to survive, or that they don’t have a path to even fix their status, [those are] things that people don’t understand, and we need to shine a light on them.”
6. Do you believe immigrants are informed? How can we inform them?
“I don’t think a lot of immigrants are informed. I think there’s a stigma [on] talking about things. Back in 2008 or 9, there was a movement called Stepping Out From The Shadows. It [about] was standing out as undocumented, and this is a time when a lot of people who are Dreamers came out of the shadows per se and said out loud in public spaces that they were undocumented. I think movements like that help people or immigrants become educated, but new immigrants that have come recently, older immigrants or people who haven’t been in the educational system shy away [from] it because they don’t want people to know. It’s scary, and it’s dangerous for people to know your status, especially if they want something bad to happen to you .”
7. Do you believe the current decisions being made by our government should elicit an emotional response?
“I think anything that [what] the government does should elicit a response in general. Not just immigration, but anything that happens needs to have a response from the people, and the government needs to respond. The government is working for us to try to keep us safe or try to be better for the American society, and if they’re doing something that is not for the American society then they need to respond in some way.”
8. What are your thoughts on sanctuary cities? Should the federal government be able to cut funding due to the current debate surrounding sanctuary cities?
“I don’t think that it should be up to the federal government to make those decisions. It’s hard to say because a lot of the sanctuary cities are actually self-providing. Talking about San Francisco [specifically], San Francisco gives more money to the federal government than it actually gets back from them.” Mr. Barragan went on to question the meaning of cutting funds from a self-providing sanctuary city and the actual methods that would have to be implemented in order to execute that. “But I think that sanctuary cities are good. They are a place of safety where people with like-minded mindsets can actually [live].”
9. What do you think should be done to help immigrants get citizenship?
“I think there needs to be a path because right now there isn’t anything, which is the biggest misconception that I’ve heard a lot of times. Even [I have had questions asked] to myself, [like] ‘You have been under Deferred Action for five years, why haven’t you done anything to fix your situation?’ [but] outside of marrying a citizen, there isn’t really anything that I could possibly do to fix that. So I think there needs to be some way to showcase that we’re good citizens. I don’t have a criminal record. I’ve given back to society. I’m a teacher. What else do you want to know? I think there needs to be something. I wouldn’t be able to say what. I don’t know if amnesty is the right call, but at least for the people who are Dreamers who grew up here, who don’t have a life in another country, there needs to be something we can do to help them out.”
10. Do you believe there is a group of immigrants that is attacked the most and in what way?
“I think all immigrants are being attacked the most right now. I think that Middle Eastern immigrants are being attacked the most right now because things that are happening in the Middle East, you know with Syria and Muslim people. Unfortunately, I think on par with that is a lot of Latino immigrants in the U.S. – specifically, they’re being stereotyped. Even people who are not Latino immigrants, [people who are] just Latino or they look Latino, a lot of the times they’re being affected by these different stereotypes and injustices [by] getting pulled over [or] getting followed around. There was a story that I read recently where someone who was born in the U.S. was jailed and put into an immigration camp for months before [it was discovered] that he was actually a citizen of the U.S. I wanna say that those are the two groups being affected the most right now, because immigrants that are coming [who] have some type of white privilege are able to pass through a lot of things. There are immigrants from Canada who’re here without documentation. Although they may be suffering from some of these injustices, they’re not being targeted as heavily as the Latino population is.”