Thursday morning saw a number of people, so-called Dreamers, across the nation breathing a little easier when the Supreme Court announced its decision that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals still stands despite the Trump administration’s efforts to rescind it.
One of those directly affected by the court’s decision is a visible member of the Greater Phoenix Jewish community — Eddie Chavez Calderon, campaign organizer for Arizona Jews for Justice, and a DACA recipient.
The Jewish News spoke to Calderon about his experience and what comes next.
When did you hear the news?
I had been up since 5 and I was refreshing my phone and refreshing my phone. This has been weeks and weeks of every Monday and Thursday waking up extremely early on edge and nerves piling up. Feeling shortness of breath and wondering, is this the end? What am I going to do now? Thursday morning was being able to breathe. It was incredible. To be able to breathe. My mom called me and said, “Now you can sleep.”
This was a breath of fresh air. It’s our time to breathe that in and know that tomorrow we have to fight.
The court ruling didn’t say that DACA can’t be legally rescinded, however. Are you gearing up for another attempt by the administration?
DACA isn’t the main goal. We’ve always seen that they’re going to challenge it. The crazy thing is they view this as numbers instead of taking into consideration that we’re talking about people’s lives. We’re talking about human beings whose error is that their parents risked everything to bring them into the United States in the hope of having the American dream.
The bigger picture has always been immigration reform and citizenship — not just for the Dreamers, but for the undocumented who work every day to provide for their family and who pay taxes. We are your neighbors and friends. Everywhere you go, we’re there.
You’re very visible in the Jewish community. What has been the response?
I felt overwhelming support from my Jewish community. Immediately Thursday morning, texts, calls, messages started pouring in. I turned away from my phone for a minute and I had 60 plus notifications from the Jewish community showing overwhelming love and support. And I’ve always felt that support.
People would joke and say, “Don’t worry Eddie, we’ll adopt you, we won’t let anything happen to you.”
Where is your family from originally?
Michoacán, Mexico. I was 4 years old when we came to the U.S. I turned 5 here. We migrated through Nogales and first spent time in Phoenix. Then we moved to Los Angeles, and I’ve lived in many states since then, and now I’m in the first place where my dream started.
You have been waiting for this decision for some time?
I was fully expecting a bad decision to be honest. You prepare for the worst. We got some hope with the LGBT ruling and hoped we could get the same energy for DACA. It feels like a miracle.
What was your plan if the decision had gone the other way?
I would have immediately called my attorneys. There’s so much to unpack with immigration law. How do you construct your life on a broken system? People say to do it the right way, but when you ask what that means, they can’t even explain it to you. We have this idea that getting citizenship is like walking up at the DMV and getting in line, but it’s far more than that. It’s expensive; it’s costly, and at some point there aren’t steps to continue walking through.
My friends get angry when I try to explain the process and show them the steps. They say how unfair it is, and I ask them to imagine living like this.
When were you able to start being open about your undocumented status?
DACA has given us the ability to be up front about our status and not fear repercussions. But growing up, my mother made sure we were very hush about it. She made sure I didn’t tell anyone, and as a little kid that’s a hard concept to understand. I couldn’t really deconstruct that until I was an adult.
In your job as an organizer for Arizona Jews for Justice and being on the front lines, do you ever feel afraid of being arrested and possibly deported?
Living in fear every day doesn’t allow you to live. It’s not who I am. I won’t live in fear with my faith, and I won’t live in fear with my status. I have a gift to speak and to organize my community, and that’s what I’m going to do.
It’s not an option to have fear hold me back.
Do you think an immigration package will make it through Congress?
We’ve been having hope. This has been an ongoing fight for the Dream and Promise Act that’s still in the House of Representatives. Legislators on both sides of the aisle haven’t advanced real immigration reform.
We just don’t stop at hope. It continues with advocacy and pressuring our communities to get civically engaged, and voting, and finding legislators who represent us and holding them accountable — even those who say they agree with us. And we have to challenge folks who don’t agree with us.
I see the comments saying, “It’s not over,” but just let us have this win. Let us enjoy this. JN