June 13 2017

Editor’s note: The Kern County Board of Supervisors recently adopted a resolution opposing California’s Senate Bill 54. SB 54, commonly referred to as the “sanctuary state” bill, would limit law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood had previously attempted to declare Kern County a designated “non-sanctuary” county but that was struck down. Instead, the Board opted to support a resolution opposing the state bill. SB 54 has passed the California Senate but has not yet been voted on by the California Assembly. In this piece, Kern youth Luis shares his thoughts on what a “safe haven” would mean to his family.

If my city were to become a safe haven, it would not only benefit my family. Many other Kern families with undocumented members could also breathe a sigh of relief.

Right now in Kern, community members are living in fear just to go shopping at their local supermarkets or to bring their kids to school. A safe haven would change this. It would mean, for example, that I could go outside in my city and ride my bike without being scared of being detained and deported.

My parents brought me to the United States when I was 11. All my life I’ve tried to be a good person. And I think I’ve succeeded at this so far. I’ve never broken any laws, large or small. I have been attending school ever since I’ve lived in the United States, and I am a high school graduate.

I do wish I could go to college, but I’m afraid. I’m still fearful of going outside my house and being sent back to a country that is not my home. So for now, college feels unattainable for me.

I’m currently working at a packaging company where my parents also work. We get up every day at 5 a.m. to get ready for the nine-hour workday. I usually work five days a week unless the machines break down, because when that happens it usually takes a few days to fix them.

Every morning, I help my mom serve coffee to drink with our Mexican bread for breakfast.  We also prepare our lunches, which usually consist of chicken salad with saltine crackers and pickled chiles, or bean and chorizo burritos, or shredded chicken tostadas.

After the morning routine, I hop in the car with my parents and head over to the babysitter to drop off two of my little brothers. We then bring my other brother Juan to school.

I feel happy for my two little brothers because they will never have to fear going outside. That’s because they were born here and have all of the protections that come with being U.S. citizens. They will be able to go to college and get a better education. They will be able to get a better job than mine, and they will be able to travel to another state and even outside of the country.

As soon as I get home from work, I check my bike and sometimes go ride it. I also hang out with my girlfriend sometimes. We meet at McDonalds or a park to talk. Even then, while I’m sitting with my girlfriend, I question whether safe spaces for undocumented immigrants actually exist. I’m always looking over my shoulder.

I didn’t apply for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) because when I found out about it I didn’t have the nearly $500 needed to apply. DACA is a program that offers some temporary relief for undocumented immigrants who were brought over to the U.S. as children. It gives temporary relief from deportation, and it even gives the opportunity for someone to obtain a work permit.

In addition to not having the money, I was also worried that my information would be used by the Trump administration, and I wondered whether he would end the DACA program or just allow it to expire.

But if Kern were to become a safe haven, I would have the ability to go to college, expand my knowledge and get a better job. I know that I would do this in a heartbeat.

Not only is this fear of ICE a problem for me but for so many other people in my community as well. We need to be able to feel safe in the place that we call home, and in the community that we contribute to.

Before our current president got elected, I was able to go out with friends to the movies, go out to eat, and spend time at parks without being afraid. Right now, I can’t do anything but work and stay home, all the while trying to think of ways to better myself and find opportunities to become successful.

If my city became a safe haven, it would be life-changing for me and my family. I could go out without having to constantly look over my shoulder. Instead of being stuck, I could plan for my future, just like most other responsible 19-year-olds are doing.

This article originally appeared in South Kern Sol. Click here to read it there.