News & Features » News

No More Risk

The DREAM Alliance of Sonoma County works to keep families together



Page 2 of 2

Home ICE raids in the city of Sonoma's Latino neighborhoods were an early catalyst for Guzmán's activism. The 23-year-old grew up on a small dairy farm in Sonoma, the son of undocumented Mexican parents who emigrated when he was one year old. As a high school senior in 2007, he remembers classmates beginning to protest the seizures and deportations by quietly excusing themselves from class. And while he knew what they were doing, their protest wasn't made explicit to anyone else.

"There was no message, so it just looked like truants walking out of school," he recalls. "It pissed me off, because they were trivializing what we were going through."

So he helped organize a walkout. When the group of roughly 125 students left their classes en masse, he remembers telling anyone who asked that the group wasn't cutting school; it was trading biology or English class for a course in social justice.

At the Santa Rosa Junior College several years later, he continued organizing around immigration issues, such as vehicle checkpoints and car impounds when undocumented drivers couldn't produce a license. In the spring of 2011, when the statewide Dream Network began mobilizing around the nascent Dream Act, he and his sister, Diana Guzmán, began rallying around the bill, which would allow DREAMers to apply for student financial aid. After Gov. Brown signed the bill in October, the student group, now known as the DREAM Alliance of Sonoma County, turned its attention toward Deferred Action.

There are 1.4 million potential DACA beneficiaries nationwide, with nearly two-thirds (900,000) between the ages of 15 and 30, according to the Immigration Policy Center. The rest are "future beneficiaries" between the ages of five and 14, who will be able to apply in high school. California has the greatest population that could benefit from DACA, at 300,000, with Texas (150,000) and Florida (50,000) as distant runners up.

But though the group sees DACA as a momentous victory for immigrant youth, Guzmán says their recent push has been around their families, whom he calls the real dreamers. Speaking of that auditorium full of hopeful students back in August of 2012, he says: "It was fantastic that we had legal protection, but it still left our families vulnerable to deportation. Our own families are still at risk."

Add a comment