Immigrant Voices at the Dawn of the Trump Era

Rarely in American history has the election of a president had a more profound and immediate effect on a specific group of people than the election of Donald J. Trump promises to have on unauthorized immigrants in this country.

In the aftermath of his Election Day victory, Trump signaled that he would back away from some of his more draconian campaign promises, including the immediate deportation of all 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country and the establishment of a Muslim registry.

However, as the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday, he is still planning to transform the immigration system by, among other things, ending temporary protections put in place for people in the country illegally and widening the range of those targeted for deportation.

And he plans to move quickly – word is he could begin signing executive orders regarding immigration policy in the days, perhaps even hours, after he takes the oath of office Friday. Few places in the country will feel brunt of these policy changes in the same way as Orange County, home to an estimated 250,000 unauthorized immigrants.

Voice of OC contributing writer/photographer Mariah Castaneda has spent the past two months talking to county residents who will almost surely be affected by Trump’s harsh stance on their right to live here.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

fabiola

Fabiola Lua, 39, is unauthorized and from Michoacan, Mexico. She is currently disabled due to a fall in a walk-in freezer at her previous job. Lua is not fearful for herself, because she claims to “know her rights.” However, she is worried about Mexican immigrants who speak “dialect Spanish” or indigenous languages.

Lua feels it is easier for non-Spanish speaking immigrants to be harassed, exploited and ultimately deported because they can’t speak any of the prominent languages spoken in the United States. The Trump presidency has led to difficult family discussions in the Lua household about the possibility of her being deported.

The contingency plan at this point is for Lua’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Alba Pitria, to emancipate herself from her mother and fight for guardianship of her two younger brothers.

luisgomez

Luis Gomez, 27, came to the United States from Vera Cruz, Mexico when he was 14. Gomez supports his mother, who is also unauthorized. He is able to work through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA .

Gomez fears that during Trump’s presidency he would lose his ability to work in the United States. If that happens, he worries about not being able to support his mother. Beyond his financial worries, Gomez faces the discrimination that comes with being both unauthorized and LGBT.

“[Unauthorized] LGBT people are a part of two closets, the LGBT closet and undocumented closet, it’s hard enough to come out of one closet, let alone two marginalized communities,” he said.“We become a minority within a minority, which could have profound effects on our social economical and psychological wellbeing.”

While Gomez often worries about whether the information he submitted to the government when he applied for DACA will now be used against him, he tries not to dwell on it. Instead, he focuses on his work at the LGBT Center OC in Santa Ana.

“This isn’t a time to be hiding in the closest, it is our stories that will give a human element to this all,” he said.

alma

Alejandra Gonzalez, 24, works for the Mexican consulate in Santa Ana providing information about obtaining dual Mexican-American citizenship. She is passionate about empowering those in the Mexican immigrant community and concerned with the narrative of criminal activity by immigrants.

Part of her job is to disseminate information to unauthorized immigrants about what to do when stopped by police. One crucial misunderstanding that Gonzalez worries is prevalent among Mexican immigrants has to do with severity the consequences of driving under the influence.

Drunk driving is not a felony in Mexico, but a DUI conviction very well could be considered a deportable crime by the Trump administration.

“Sometimes they don’t get what a crime means,” she said. “They think that if they drink and drive just once, it cannot be a crime. But if the police stop them, and they have been drinking, it’s a DUI”.

Gonzalez is also trying to push for a more open discussion of domestic violence within the Mexican American community. She is working to make sure that Mexican immigrant women feel empowered and unafraid to speak to police.

alejandra

Alma Magana, 41, was stuck in the “immigration process” for 15 years.

It all started when her friend, a paralegal, said she could apply for political asylum, which doesn’t typically apply to Mexican immigrants. Not knowing this, she applied and ended up spending more than $16,000, and not only failed to gain asylum but ended up in deportation proceedings.

“Every time I would go to appear in court, there would be a fee, it was too much money,” Magana remembers. She later found out that her so-called attorney was not allowed to practice law in California and had scammed her and jeopardized her freedom.

To this day, Magana tears up when thinking about how close she came to being deported. She was preparing to leave the country and coming to grips with the prospect of leaving behind her two small daughters. She was also coping with being a victim of domestic violence.

Fortunately, an attorney was able to stop Magana’s deportation. And through another attorney, she was able to obtain a visa to stay in the U.S. because of her domestic violence issues.

In 2011, Magana finally received her legal residency.”I am so grateful to be in this country,” she said. Her daughters, now 23 and 19, are doing well. The youngest is in college and the eldest is now a teacher. Magana, meanwhile, works for KidWorks, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit focused on youth in underserved communities.

Magana says she feels for those stuck in what she calls limbo, referring to the children of undocumented people. Despite the fact that she cannot vote, Magana is determined to change any negative impact a Trump presidency will have on immigrants.

carlosparea

Carlos Parea, 24, said he was not surprised by the election. He believes it is the result of “whitelash or white rage” towards people of color. He says the current the narrative of deportations only targeting criminals is problematic and has already has been normalized.

“Once you dehumanize a person, or a whole subset of people — once you label them as something else, like illegal or criminal you can get away with everything,” Parea said, referring to the dehumanizing of Jews during the Holocaust, and the internment of Japanese Americans.

To Parea, Trump’s rhetoric against Mexican immigrants is nothing new – just more explicit than what he usually hears from politicians. He does not think Trump will have a hard time carrying out mass deportations, due to structures already in put into place during the Obama administration.

He is now working with Resilience OC, a nonprofit that fights deportations and brings to light “the school to prison to deportation pipeline.”

Mariah Castaneda is a student in UC-Irvine’s literary journalism department. She can be reached at mscastan@uci.edu.

  • Jacki Livingston

    If that dirtbag that some dumb people call president creates a Muslim registry, I will register as Muslim.

  • USDefender

    Deport all illegal aliens immediately, no exceptions! These people are squatters plain and simple and have no right to dwell in the United States and live off citizen taxpayer funds and services, period! Their ignorance, whether purposeful or unknown is no excuse of the law! Enforce the coded congressional immigration law and activate deportation by force for all sneak trespassers who live here undocumented!

    • Aahoo Ellie Pourang

      “Their ignorance, whether purposeful or unknown”…

      See I was about to argue with you but that statement by itself is pretty damn embarrassing on your end. I’m literally lol-ing.

      “activate deportation by force”

      Really, who are you? “Activate”. That’s not how the government works. That’s not how life works. If you want book recommendations on how to be a decent human my email address is aahoo3344@gmail.com

    • Jacki Livingston

      I’m sure Native Americans felt the same way, before whites slaughtered them.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Go back, way back, two hundred years. Boot everyone who is not Native American out.

  • questionauthority2

    I’d be inclined to be ranting to my parents and blaming them for allowing me to further dig my roots in while illegally entering the U.S. and allowing me to grow up as an un-naturalized citizen, with false hope and belief that I belonged here legally. I would fear deportation and would also feel guilt of theft of services, funding, college tuition and any other U.S. payments made on my behalf as a non-citizen. The “Dreamers” never should have happened; the “wall” does not need to be concrete it needs to be the word NO at the Government services window. NO driver’s license, NO income, NO food stamps, NO scholarships. NO legal entry=TURN AROUND AND GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM and enter legally and honestly, then earn your way like the rest of us.

    • LFOldTimer

      E-Verify would solve a big part of the problem with $15,000 employer fines per illegal hired. No need to hunt the illegals down. Just take away their income source. They would self-deport. The solution is so simple it’s stupid.

      Trump clearly understands the problem. And he made it clear on the campaign trail and in his inaugural address that immigration is a top priority.

      Again, we welcome LEGAL immigrants who play by the rules with open arms. They bring value to the country. Illegals only bring problems and headaches.

      • questionauthority2

        “Just take away their income source. They would self-deport. Legal immigrants would replace them. The solution is so simple it’s stupid.”
        Right on oldtimer, right on.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Companies exploit illegal labor. I had a client who was forty, and the OC company he worked for did not want to provide safety and other protections, for their workers, and this hard working father suffered a stroke that left him alive, but paralyzed. He could only blink and move his pinky. He was trapped in his body, his brain was unharmed. The company was not fined or held accountable, they just grabbed another desperate illegal, who fled poverty, and used him. This man had all his money stolen from him by Garden Park Nursing home, part of the chain of horrors I investigated. I got the money he did have coming to him from Social Security back, and to his children, for their care and support. I brought a box of CD’s and DVD movies down to him, he had no money for any entertainment, just lying these, unable to even hug his babies. He died at 42, a victim of the greed that big business in CA uses because they are too cheap and sleazy to pay the fair wages to citizens.

        Here is my question: If you are so opposed to illegals, when why don’t you say anything about the worst of it? For years, I have talked about the criminal organization and exploitation in the nursing homes, why I was forced out of my career. These nursing home operators exploit illegal labor, and illegal patients. You see, love, it isn’t the common worker who costs you. Nonononono. Long Term Care nursing homes was approved as one of the few things illegal aliens can get on the public dime. So, these sleazy owners, who run facilities that I wouldn’t put a dog in, fill them with illegals. Mexico is sending their elderly and disabled HERE and the cost to taxpayers is between five and fifty grand a month, per patient, depending on the level of care. Add into that the multiple billing numbers that crooked county employees are giving these operators, so they can double and triple bill? Is it any wonder that nursing homes are the new cash cow of organized crime? They make donations to Spitzer, Steel, Nelson and others, who look the other way as they mistreat and abuse and kill these human beings, while you and I pay the bill for their care and the inflated charges. Do you get this? Old Guy is put in nursing home by family, who brought him up from Mexico or wherever, and it costs you and me five to fifty grand a month for his care, not to mention the double and triple billing. NOW DO YOU SEE WHY THEY WERE SO EAGER TO GET RID OF ME AND SHUT ME UP? Now do you see why I am gobsmacked that no one has said anything about it?

        Sheesh, wake up! You are complaining about Jose the dishwasher. He isn’t costing you nearly what this scam is. The Cabal o’ Five is getting rich, helping these owners who are linked to Eastern Euro and Russian mafia, and they are robbing you blind using a little known loophole in benefits to illegals.

        Mad yet?

    • Jacki Livingston

      Please get educated. Illegal residents are not eligible to food stamps, welfare, housing or any medical assistance other than life threatening emergency, pregnancy or LTC. Period.

  • Linda

    Why do the voices of non-citizens (of ANY color or nationality) who are here illegally get a say in how our country and government is run?

    • LFOldTimer

      It’s not just non-citizens, Linda. If it was just the voices of non-citizens it wouldn’t matter.

      It’s elected officials with the authority to drive policy who are sworn under oath to their allegiance to America.That’s what I find repulsive. I consider them enemies of the state. The dishonest narrative that has powered support for these foreign criminal invaders illustrates manipulation through words found in Orwell’s 1984. And make no doubt about it…when elected lawmakers devise policy to reward illegal behavior that causes considerable damage to those who honor and obey the laws – it’s subverts a civilized society. Shameful.

    • Aahoo Pourang

      Because those voices is what America was and is founded on.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Where did your ancestors come from?

  • Stephen Masek

    Catch and eject them as soon as is possible.

    Mexico will have a revolution when the safety valve of illegal immigration is closed by the wall. That will be good for Mexico, as they should be free and well-off, with the US as a neighbor, two nice coats, and oil.

    • Aahoo Ellie Pourang

      You are as un-American as it gets.

    • Jacki Livingston

      There will never be a wall.

  • LFOldTimer

    We Americans love our legal immigrants. Those immigrants who come to America under the national traditions of rule of law that make us a civilized society. Those who submit their applications, provide information for their background and health checks, learn our English language, assimilate into our culture and raise their families under the American flag dedicated to our way of life. We invite those immigrants with open welcome arms, consider them members of our national family and will do whatever we can to help them realize success and the American dream.

    One of the most cherished values held by common Americans is the concept of fairness. We’re a sovereign nation. Those who play by the rules get rewarded. Those who break the rules get punished. Just like in any civilized nation. When those who play by the rules get punished and those who break the rules get rewarded – it results in societal chaos and makes us an uncivilized country – causing havoc and disarray throughout the land.

    Anyone raised on a moral code should inherently understand the concept of fairness. If you were at the grocery store waiting in line at the check-out stand and several people cut into line ahead of you – you wouldn’t like it. You would likely speak out and complain. What about the millions of lawful prospective immigrant applicants who are forced to wait in line for 10 years or longer because millions of illegal foreigners have broken into our country and stolen jobs – eliminating opportunities for the lawful immigrants. Is that fair?

    Donald Trump only wants to restore FAIRNESS. Anyone who has a problem with that is either not thinking straight or is intellectually dishonest.

    • Aahoo Ellie Pourang

      Donald Trump and Mike Pence are the most un-American bastards to have ever stepped into the Oval Office. One of the most cherished values held by common Americans is the American dream, and welcoming those who want to be a part of it.

      Anyone raised on a moral code should inherently understand the concept of being kind to one another, and not allowing a pussy-grabbing bully as our president.

      His inaugural address was an embarrassment.

      • LFOldTimer

        Why are you responding to me, Aahoo? Your comment did not address any of my points. No counterarguments?

        The United States has a right to know who’s coming into our country. And we have a right to decide who stays and who goes. That’s all part of being a sovereign nation. We’re not running a flophouse for needy foreign migrants who care to walk across the border and get free stuff.

        If you think you can find another nation that has open borders and no immigration laws – then go there. You won’t have anything to complain about and you’ll be a much happier person.

        Good luck with your search.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Well said.

  • verifiedsane

    “unauthorized immigrants” = is Liberal PC speak for being in the county ILLEGALLY

    Illegal immigration is not the dehumanizing of a person, or is it demonizing a whole subset of people, or is it racism evidenced in this article using reverse racist rhetoric of “whitelash or white rage towards people of color”; it’s simply a matter of national sovereignty and the enforcement of the law.

    This article using comparisons of illegal immigration to the Jews during the Holocaust, or the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2 is beyond irrational and equates to total & complete folly. The lengths and depths of the left media’s ignorance, and their ongoing dissemination of misleading & false information is shameful: while it continues reporting ludicrous comparisons as news is truly paramount to it conducting a campaign of unadulterated propaganda and the creation of fake news.

    This is a very biased, one-sided, and politically indoctrinated/directed article that does nothing more than create more hysteria and further decisiveness. Opinion pieces should be relegated to the opinion section, not featured as front page News.

    • Bob Brock

      Voice of OC is not “news” in the traditional sense. It is an advocacy-oriented blog that masquerades as news.

      • verifiedsane

        This kind of non-reporting should come as no surprise being disseminated from a business that receives the majority of it’s funding from the ORANGE COUNTY EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, which is little more than a democratic party political and propaganda front. Providing the same spewing of leftist spoon fed propaganda as the vast majority of MSM. It’s no different with these so called non-profit investigative fake news organizations that hide behind the false veil of independent journalism. In all substance and action, VOC is just another big government lap dog futility trying to portray itself as some bastardized version of a watch dog.

        • questionauthority2

          Taking a further look into the VOC funding, does it surprise you that a board member donated $60,000.00 in 2014 as a tax write off, which is then his income from the VOC? Wylie A. Coyote is an ambulance chaser attorney and a board member, wanting to influence investigative “news” of OC.

          • verifiedsane

            One has to wonder how much of the VOC operating budget is coming from billionaire far left global socialist George Soros and his many well funded political organizations?

    • Aahoo Pourang

      Welcome to the entire Fox NEWS network. The moment someone disagrees with a piece, opinionated or not, you deem it as fake or untrue.

      Also, welcome to the internet. There are going to be a lot of things on here you won’t like.