The immigrants who have been speaking out about DACA all along

Protest in Los Angeles after federal government announces that they're ending the DACA program. Photo by Yunuen Bonaparte via Instagram.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Yunuen Bonaparte stayed up all night on November 8, 2016, watching the election results with her younger brothers. As it became clear that Donald Trump would become president, she started planning for the possibility that he would end DACA, the program that had protected her from deportation.

“I’ve seen this coming since November 8th, said Bonaparte. “We knew that this administration was not stable, we didn’t know that he would do it for sure, but we knew that we would have to prepare.”

Bonaparte, now 27-years-old, came to the United States when she was 12 years old with her mother and two brothers. They settled with her father, who was already in the Los Angeles area. Bonaparte had her fair share of hardships adjusting to life here. She was placed in foster care when her parents separated, and after living with her father again, she struggled to find a way to pay for college.

“I knew that there were scholarships out there where you wouldn’t have to give your social security number,” she said. “At the same time, I was never trained to find those.”

So Bonaparte worked full-time at McDonald’s, paying her way through community college for six years. She studied photography and was a semester away from graduating when President Obama instituted DACA, which would allow undocumented immigrants like her who were brought over as children to stay and work in the United States.

After obtaining DACA protection, Bonaparte was able to get the financial aid to transfer to Cal State Fullerton, where she studied communications. She now works as a freelance photojournalist for a variety of English and Spanish-language publications.

The election has shaped her work, motivating her to do a photo series of DACA recipients. This project reaffirmed the impact that DACA was having on people, in allowing them to pursue education and fulfilling careers. “It was very clear that DACA, even though it looks like so little, a lot of people got to do a lot of things with it, and they were not backing off of that,” she said. “They were going to continue to do the things they were doing,” she said. “And they have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C.”

Bonaparte wasn’t the only who saw this coming. As soon as the election results came in, Journalist Eileen Truax began discussing an art exhibit that would focus on DACA and other immigrations, with Art Historian Isabel Rojas-Williams. The exhibit, entitled “South of the Border,” will feature art from immigrant artists and artists born in the U.S. with ancestors from different Latino countries. It opens on Oct. 21, 2017 as part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA showcase of Latin American art in Los Angeles.

Truax and Rojas-Williams recognized that DACA was not just a relevant issue because of a big government decision, but a daily reality for many people. “People are living these kinds of lives every day, and they have daily struggles, and every day that they come home at night, they have conquered a small Everest, because of the struggle that means living with no documents in this country,” Truax said.

Truax, who is also originally from Mexico, covered immigration for the Spanish-language La Opinion for a number of years, and then published a book in 2013 called Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream, about the young immigrant activists who campaigned for legislation allowing them legal status in America.

The book not only discusses how DACA came to be, but its effects, with the people in the program able to go to school, get jobs and have a positive impact on society.

Bonaparte’s story will be featured in Truax’s second book, Mexicanos al Grito de Trump: Historias de Triunfo y Resistencia en Estados Unidos, which will be published in Spanish in October. She will also speak at the “South of the Border” opening reception, in a panel discussion with Truax and fellow Dreamer Adrian Gonzalez. Her photography will also be featured in the exhibit.

Bonaparte said that while she was angry about the end of DACA, but also knew that she would be okay. “I’ve lived without DACA for most of my life. You know, I only received it when I was 24,” she said.

She and other activists will campaign not only for protection for DACA recipients like her, but her immigration reform in general. “We’re not gonna leave without a fight,” she said.

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