“The Fosters” Season Premiere Shows How You Can Support Immigrant Families

“The Fosters” Season Premiere Shows How You Can Support Immigrant Families

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Alvaro M. Huerta, NILC staff attorney
January 9, 2018

Tonight’s season premiere episode, “Sanctuary,” of “The Fosters” on the Freeform channel touches on some important topics related to how our country’s immigration system continues to rip families apart.

In last season’s finale, Callie and AJ helped their friend Ximena seek sanctuary in a church when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) came looking for Ximena because she had spoken out at a rally and disclosed that she’s undocumented. Ximena was previously granted protection from deportation through a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which President Obama’s administration initiated in 2012.

DACA allowed young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to get temporary protection from deportation and eligibility to work in the U.S. To maintain these benefits, DACA recipients had to apply to renew it every two years. Ximena didn’t renew her DACA because she was afraid of getting her family in trouble with ICE, so her protection under DACA had ended and, although she did eventually apply to renew it, the renewal still had not been approved at the time ICE came to arrest her.

What’s happened to Ximena in “The Fosters” happens to thousands of immigrant youth every day. In fact, Ximena’s story mirrors that of a young woman named Daniela “Dany” Vargas, whose DACA status had also lapsed and who was detained by ICE and placed in deportation proceedings just minutes after participating in a rally to protest immigration raids.

The Trump administration terminated the DACA program this past September. A fraction of the nearly 800,000 young people with DACA were allowed to apply to renew it during a short, one-month window. While some were able to renew their DACA in that time, at least 1,900 people had their applications wrongly rejected due to problems with the mail. Others had applications rejected because of small clerical-type errors, or because they couldn’t pull together enough funds in such a short amount of time to pay the nearly $500 renewal application fee. To date, over 15,000 people have lost their DACA status and, with it, their temporary protection from deportation and their ability to provide from themselves and their families.

Back on “The Fosters,” Ximena finds sanctuary in a local church. Many religious institutions have bravely decided to stand up against the harsh deportation system. They are supporting their communities’ immigrant members by providing sanctuary and connecting immigrant families at risk of deportation with local immigration attorneys and immigrants’ rights organizations. Under most circumstances, ICE may not enter private spaces, including a church or someone’s home, without a valid search warrant signed by a judge.

But not all undocumented immigrants are able to find sanctuary. That’s why it’s important to know what your rights are and what to do if ICE comes looking for you or your family. Ximena had a plan. She knew to check in right away with family members and to reach out to her family’s immigration attorney, whose telephone number she had memorized. You can also locate a family member who’s been detained by searching online, and you can connect with a local nonprofit immigrants’ rights organization to get support. If you witness an immigration raid or see someone being detained by ICE, you can record ICE’s or the police’s actions, but do so from a safe distance and without getting in the way of the officers.

Fortunately, there is a solution for people such as Ximena and her family. Congress has an opportunity to pass the Dream Act, a bill that would grant legal status to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and for whom this country is the only home they’ve ever known. Congress is currently negotiating with the White House on what will be included in the Dream Act, and the goal is to see the bill become law soon. But we need to let Congress know that we demand the Dream Act so that families like Ximena’s won’t be torn apart!

It’s important to raise the visibility of immigrants caught up by the deportation system. Using social media like Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube is one way to get the word out about the Dream Act and people like Ximena who are as American as anyone else. We cannot stand by while thousands of children are separated from their parents. People rallied outside of the church where Ximena took refuge and shamed ICE into leaving. We need to make immigrants’ stories even more visible!

Callie and AJ stepped in to help Ximena when she was in need, and the Fosters were there when Callie needed them most. It’s important to have a support network when you and your family are caught up in the broken immigration system. The Fosters stepped up for Ximena. Let’s all step up for our immigrant friends and family by making sure that Congress passes the Dream Act now!