By Salvador Rodriguez
November 10, 2016
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Undocumented tech workers say they are shocked and living in fear following the election of Donald Trump earlier this week.
After hoping for a Democratic victory that could have created a path toward comprehensive immigration reform, these individuals are now bracing for a strongly anti-immigration Trump presidency.
"[I'm] very scared because of the possible changes in policy, but also because American voters made it clear that they don't want us here," says David, 28, a software engineer in the Bay Area. David did not want to disclose his full name for fear of facing harassment. "Regardless of their thought process, it's not great to be in a place and feel unwelcome."
Trump made numerous anti-immigration promises during his campaign, ranging from building a massive wall across the U.S.'s southwestern border to ending federal funding for "sanctuary cities" that are friendly to undocumented immigrants. He also vowed to shut down programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. That program, instituted under President Obama, makes certain undocumented people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 low-level priorities for deportation while also granting them legal, three-year work permits. Currently, there are approximately 728,000 DACA recipients, the federal government has said.
Undocumented tech workers don't believe building a border wall is realistic, but they do fully expect Trump to follow through on many of his other, less publicized anti-immigration promises.
"DACA will get shut down very quickly," David says. "There are very small changes that can occur and will be super inconvenient: shutting down sanctuary cities, prohibiting us from traveling inside the country, maybe take our driver's licenses."
Groups that are against undocumented immigration similarly expect Trump to go forward with his campaign platform.
"Congress never approved DACA, and on the multiple times it went to Congress as the Dream Act, it either never got to the floor or was defeated," says Joe Guzzardi, national media director of Californians for Population Stabilization, which supports putting an end to DACA. "As a practical matter, I suspect that when DACA work authorizations expire, Trump will not renew them." Trump's office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Many undocumented people were pinning their hopes on Trump's opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who promised to deliver immigration reform in her first 100 days in office. Now, rather than fighting for a path toward citizenship, these individuals–there are an estimated 11 million undocumented people in this country–are bracing for a fight to simply remain in the U.S.
"Immigration reform and a work permit will not form part of the discussions in the months to come. That's not me being pessimistic–it's comprehending what likely lies ahead," says "Vanessa," 32, an undocumented student in San Francisco who is training to work in the tech sector. Vanessa did not want to use her first or last name because she fears being deported.
Aside from Trump's strong stances against immigration, these individuals say they are also living in fear of how they may be treated by those who supported the Republican candidate. Already across the U.S. there have been a number of reported incidents of racism following the election.
"Some Americans can feel that having a president that got there using that type of language gives them an excuse to behave however they want," David says. "I'm not super worried in the Bay Area. People here are very nice. But places like Arizona can get much worse now."
Others, like undocumented software engineer Jorge Orrantia, 47, are holding out hope that Trump will not be as tough as he claimed to be during his campaign. Nonetheless, Orrantia says he plans to actively oppose any anti-immigration policies and remain in the country that he's called home since coming here from Mexico when he was 18.
"I will not stay on the sidelines. I will join others to advocate for a solution to our immigration situation," Orrantia says. "Deportation of people and building a wall are not the answer."