Senator Ron Wyden attended President Trump’s State of the Union Address with Esli Becerra, a Lane Community College alumnus, and his brother Kevin Becerra, to make a stand against President Trump’s ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Esli Becerra, who came with his parents from Mexico when he was eight months old, is one of the 11,000 people in Oregon known as Dreamers who benefited from President Obama’s DACA program. DACA allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors to receive a two-year deferral from deportation and gain eligibility for a work permit. As of 2017, 800,000 people were enrolled in the program. Kevin, while born in the United States, like many others, stands to lose a great deal if his loved ones are deported.
In a conference call from Washington, DC, Senator Wyden spoke about why he brought the Becerra brothers with him.
“Dreamers in Oregon and across the country are facing threats of being ripped away from families and lives and the only country they’ve ever known,” Wyden said. “This is a result of a cruel and arbitrary deadline set by the president.”
Wyden explained how he wanted to use the example of the brothers to show how the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration are harmful to a group of dedicated community members that exemplify American values.
On the conference call, both Esli and Kevin spoke of how education and supporting each other were paramount values growing up. However, when Esli was in high school, he realized that his undocumented status meant that he was limited in his life choices. For him, being undocumented meant he was unable to get a job or even a driver’s license. He felt he couldn’t join his peers in pursuing future colleges and careers.
“Realizing I wasn’t going to be able to go into higher education, I fell into depression,” Esli said, “It was really hard.”
His brother Kevin found out about a one-year full-paid scholarship at LCC and encouraged Esli to apply. Esli won the scholarship and worked on an associates degree in multimedia design. When the scholarship ran out, Kevin paid for Esli’s education, working over 80 hours per week. However, if it hadn’t been for the DACA program, Esli wouldn’t have been able to pursue his dream of a career. Without a status, the work done by both brothers to get Esli through school would have been meaningless.
“When President Obama made the order, it opened the door for my brother and other immigrants in Oregon. It allowed them to pursue their dreams,” Kevin said.
Esli moved to Portland to work as a visual effects artist, using his skills in compositing 3-D effects for professional productions. Kevin proudly mentioned how Esli worked on the television show, Grimm. After Esli was established in his career, he used his success to help out Kevin. Kevin is currently attending Portland State University while Esli financially supports him. Kevin is a criminology, political science, and Russian language major who speaks five languages and hopes to pursue a career in intelligence.
When they found out that President Trump was ending the DACA program, the brothers were heartbroken. Esli had no memory of Mexico and dreaded the idea of leaving his home, family and community. Kevin dreaded his brother’s deportation.
“The country I love and serve wants to separate one of the people I love the most,” Kevin said.
Esli is considered an essential and dependable part of his workplace.
“It’s kind of ironic to see how many American citizens depend on a formerly undocumented immigrant under the DACA status,” Kevin said.
“Esli’s story of success in Oregon and sacrifice for his brother exemplifies how much he and his fellow Dreamers have contributed to our communities and earned an opportunity to stay in the country they know and love,” Wyden said.