By Mayor Eric Garcetti
Generations of Angelenos have come here — from every corner of the world — in search of a better life for themselves and their families. And they’ve stayed here and fought to make that better life possible for everyone.
My own grandfather, Salvador, was carried across the border in his mother’s arms during the Mexican revolution.
My other grandfather, Harry, was the son of Russian Jews, fleeing persecution. They and my grandmothers, Juanita and Julia, a meat packer and a public school teacher, built their lives right here in Los Angeles.
When you walk around our City of Angels, you feel it everywhere. Here, differences are celebrated. Diversity is ingrained in our cultural fabric. And we are all better for it.
One of my staff members, Dalia Contreras, recently joined United We Dream to share her story as part of the 10th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and to call for stronger legislative protections for Dreamers like her.
This is her story:
“If you ask a DACA recipient where they were on the day DACA was announced, without missing a beat, we can all tell you. For me, June 15, 2012 was my high school graduation and, unlike most of my peers, it was a day filled with fear, immense pressure and anxiousness.
“Until that moment, my path was clear. Get through grade school, go to college, graduate and get a job.
“But this was before I found out I didn’t have a Social Security number, and as a result, I could not qualify for financial aid. This also meant I could not qualify for in-state tuition … or work legally at any job. I strived my whole life to be a good student, get good grades, join sports, and become involved so that I could be a ‘well rounded’ candidate. All so that at the end, when it was time to put it all down in an application, it didn’t matter.
“I made sure no section was left blank and that I made use of all the words I was allowed to write in the big boxes. To my surprise, it was the smallest box that did not let me go forward in those applications. I was devastated. But like in the movies, at the very last second when all hope is lost, the most unexpected thing happens … and everyone lives happily ever after. And that is what DACA felt like for me, it gave me a chance for a happily ever after.
“I can proudly say that I made it to college after all. I graduated, I was able to intern at incredible offices, study abroad and all of that resulted in me getting the job I had hoped for. And although I am eternally grateful for everything I have been able to accomplish through DACA, it is not enough.
“Today there are first-time applications that have been stopped from being processed leaving tens of thousands of immigrant young people without any form of protection from the threat of deportation. This continued legal threat leaves the lives of DACA recipients, DACA-eligible youth and families in uncertainty and dread.
“In this moment, I think back to when I was 17, when I first became a DACA recipient, filled with hope and possibility of what my future could look like. Today, those possibilities are stagnant.
“After 10 years, this is not enough. The “children” and “teens” as we are often referred to are now adults who have built a life and a community here. We cannot continue to live our life in limbo every two years. “We need permanent solutions and not Band-Aids or temporary fixes. We need to secure a pathway to citizenship. I am a dreamer. My home is here and I am here to stay.”
Our city, our country, our American culture is what it is, because of people like Dalia… people like my grandparents.
Immigrants are essential. In L.A., immigrant Angelenos account for more than half of all business owners in the city. They are our nurses and doctors, neighbors and teachers, workers and students.
And we owe it to the Dreamers, immigrants, refugees and to ourselves to continue to foster a city of belonging.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column returns to The Wave.