Undocumented immigrants face uncertainty in wake of Trump’s election

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Daily Californian – By Cassandra Vogel

Valeska Castaneda can distinctly remember being pulled out of her preschool classroom after learning her mother was deported.

“I was uncontrollable — so upset — I didn’t understand,” Castaneda said.

When she was about 2 years old, Castaneda and her mother crossed the Rio Grande in a tire fleeing war in their home country of Nicaragua. Attached to it was a bag filled with a few clothing items — the only possessions they carried with them on the trek.

Eight months pregnant at the time, Castaneda’s mother gave her a lollipop so she would remain quiet while crossing. Once they reached the U.S. embassy in Texas, both were granted political asylum before arriving in San Francisco shortly after.

But after about three years, a judge ordered her mother to leave the country.

“I was just thinking about my mom. I couldn’t understand what paper she needed,” said Castaneda,now a permanent resident and a UC Berkeley alumna who works as a scholarship coordinator for the UC Berkeley Alumni Scholars program. “I remember I was crying because I was starting to think, ‘I have so much paper in school — what paper does my mom need to stay?.’ ”

It’s a feeling that has become all too familiar to Castaneda as she drops off her own 10-year-old daughter at school each morning in the days after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. During his campaign, Trump pledged to deport approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants and more recently said in a “60 Minutes” interview that he would remove or incarcerate what he estimates to be about 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records after he takes office.

Now, Trump’s election has set off a wave of panic among Berkeley’s undocumented community. Now more than ever, Castaneda must confront fears about the safety of her immigrant family members and community.

In light of Trump’s announcement that he will cut federal funding from cities with sanctuary policies, Berkeley, a City of Refuge — or a city that does not collaborate with federal immigration authorities’ attempts to enforce immigration law unless required by a federal or state statute — is also under threat.

“The undocumented community is living in fear now,” said Berkeley City Councilmember and Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguin. “They don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The sanctuary movement can be traced back to the 1980s, when American churches began to provide refuge and aid to undocumented immigrants escaping violence and civil unrest in Central American countries. Berkeley pledged to support sanctuary congregations in 1971 and declared itself a City of Refuge in 1985.

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