Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 23rd 2017 Contents Alcala meets her grandmother
Soft-spoken and shy, Alcala has always
been afraid of deportation. Growing up,
her family mostly kept to themselves and
a few friends. Alcala's mother encouraged
her not to speak Spanish outside the home
to avoid attracting attention. She wasn't
to let on that she was Mexican, and never
to tell people where her mother worked.
Through high school, Alcala was content
with her under-the-table restaurant job.
But as college neared, the limitations of
her legal status became increasingly clear.
She began to question why her mother
brought her to the US. Then one day, at
age 19, her life changed. News popped up
on her phone about Obama's executive ac-
tion. She was determined to immediately
apply for DACA.
Alcala was accepted, quit the restaurant
job and pursued a student position in a
lab at the University of Washington. She
recently graduated, and is working while
studying for medical school entry exams.
Her grandmother and great-grandmoth-
er were curanderas, traditional healers in
Mexico, and she doesn't think it's a coin-
cidence that she was drawn to the medical
profession. An end to DACA could scuttle
Last year, just before the November elec-
tion, Alcala found out about the Vazquez-
Ramos' programme. She was able to visit
her grandmother through it.
Molcaxac, where Alcala was born, is
a dusty village about a 90-minute drive
southeast of Puebla state's capital city. A
colourful arch decorated with religious
imagery welcomes visitors. On a recent
day, about a dozen people sat on plastic
chairs on the edge of town gulping down
orange soda and cola and eating goat slow-
steamed in a covered fire pit with agave
fronds for flavouring. Folks there say so
many working-age residents have migrated
to the US (legally and illegally), the town
is mostly populated by the elderly and the
Alcala wept when she finally met her
grandmother. Then she dined on salty
carne asada and the rich mole sauce for
which Puebla state is famous. She leaned
her head on Bello's shoulder while flip-
ping through her smartphone photos. She
skipped around the backyard checking out
the peacocks the family raises for their or-
namental feathers, and the two giant os-
triches whose eggs they sell. She played
hide-and-seek with cousins. She spent all
her time getting to know her grandmother.
On Inauguration Day, Alcala was back in
Washington state as all eyes were on Trump
and whatever new policies might come.
Alcala doesn't know what she'll do if her
DACA protection ends under Trump. (AP)
Monday, January 23, 2017 guardian.co.tt
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Tamara Alcala Dominguez sobbed,barely able
to speak, as she buried her face in the sweater
of the woman who cared for her when she was
"My little girl, I hugged you so much," Petra Bel-
lo Suarez told her now 23-year-old granddaughter,
tears dampening her own creased cheeks.
"I have you in my arms, my girl. ... You found
me still alive."
Alcala's mother left her with Bello at age two when
she went to seek a better life in the United States.
A year later, the little girl joined her mother---and
for two decades Alcala's undocumented status
prevented her from returning to Mexico to see her
grandmother and other relatives.
Then she became one of the hundreds of thou-
sands protected from deportation under an Obama
administration programme known as DACA, or De-
ferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gave
work permits to immigrants brought to the US as
children and living in the country illegally.
Alcala burst out of the shadows. In her American
home of Everett, Washington, she got an official-
ly sanctioned job and pursued an education with
dreams of becoming a doctor. And last year she
enrolled in a special programme that allowed her
to make her first journey back to Mexico, and then
return safely again to the United States.
Grandmother and grandchild spent nearly two
weeks catching up on 20 years, a reunion made bit-
tersweet by the uncertainty ahead. They said their
goodbyes just before Donald Trump took office amid
vows to undo the protections his predecessor put
in place, promises that leave immigrants worried
about what comes next.
For Alcala, the trip may have been either a last
opportunity to see her grandmother, or a chance
to reacquaint herself with her native land in case
she winds up deported.
"It brings a lot of peace of mind to know that I
was able to interact with her at least once," she said,
"before whatever happens in the future."
Visiting long-lost family
In recent weeks, more than two dozen young im-
migrants made the same journey as Alcala back to
Mexico under a provision of DACA that lets recip-
ients apply to leave the US for academic reasons or
family emergencies and then legally return.
More than 100 former child migrants have made
five such trips sponsored by California State Uni-
versity, Long Beach---emotional journeys to what
is often a barely remembered homeland, to reunite
with family seen only in photos or on Skype. The
students on this trip scattered across Mexico to join
long-lost relatives for Christmas, then gathered after
the new year for an academic course in Cuernavaca
before flying home to America.
About 750,000 people in the United States have
enrolled in DACA. Legislation that would have in-
cluded similar protections, called the DREAM Act,
failed to get through Congress, prompting then
president Barack Obama to create the programme
with an executive action in 2012, declaring at the
time, "We are a better nation than one that expels
innocent young kids."
Trump has a different take. He made tough talk
on immigration a cornerstone of his campaign for
president and has vowed to end DACA, calling it
illegal amnesty. At the same time, he's said he hopes
to "work something out" for the immigrants.
Moderate Republicans are keenly aware of the
political dangers of deporting college students and
future doctors and lawyers and breaking up families.
At a town hall meeting on January 12, House Speaker
Paul Ryan said Republicans had been working with
the Trump team on a solution and vowed there would
be no "deportation force," as Trump once said, to
round up people living in the country illegally.
But the details of what that solution might look
like have not been released, and it's not clear whether
Trump would sign off---all of which cast a shadow
over those who travelled to Mexico.
In this December 23, 2016 photo, Tamara Alcala Dominguez shares cellphone photos with
her grandmother Petra Bello Suarez in their hometown of Molcaxac, Puebla, Mexico,
during her first return since she left Mexico for the US as a toddler. AP PHOTO
Mexican migrants uncertain about US status
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