Donald Trump’s win shattered the dreams and ignited the fears of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”
They are the young people who were brought to the United States by their parents as children.
This population, which the American Immigration Council says is roughly 1.8 million, feels exceptionally vulnerable under a Trump presidency because many came out of the shadows when President Barack Obama offered them temporary legal presence through executive action in 2012. Now, with a president-elect who promised to deport the undocumented, the fear of deportation is more real than ever.
But dreamers, named for the failed DREAM Act, which had proposed a multistep process to permanent residency, are dealing with those fears in different ways.
Four dreamers in different states share with CNN their reactions to Donald Trump’s win and their hopes for the future.
They are only sharing their first names for fear of deportation.
Itzel from San Francisco
Itzel, 22, says she is undocumented and unafraid.
She is ready to put up a fight to stay in the United States and says that perhaps what this country needed to wake up was exactly what it got: President-elect Donald Trump.
“Had Hillary won, the Band-Aid would have continued masking all of our issues. And with Trump’s presidency it takes the mask off and it exposes the reality of what it’s like to live in fear in the United States,” Itzel says. “I think that more people are going to be united against this hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic person.”
Itzel was only 4 years old when her parents brought her to the United States.
This is the country she knows and the community she has lived in all her life.
She says that when Donald Trump won the election her family started text messaging her, asking whether presidents had the power to deport en masse.
Itzel says she hopes that her family and people around the country turn their fears into action.
“It’s not just about undocumented people, it’s also about the black community, the transgender community, any disenfranchised community, the working-class folks,” Itzel says. “I think that we are going to be united more and are going to change that fear to reaction.”
As for those who voted for Donald Trump and support his divisive rhetoric, Itzel says:
“I don’t have anything negative to say to them other than I feel very sorry for them. I hope they have love in their hearts to be able to live peacefully because it must really be terrible to live in a hateful manner.”
Estrella in Grand Junction, Colorado
Estrella, 32, says her three children are afraid of Trump.
But it was her 5-year-old who took the fear most to heart.
“He said he knew he [Trump] was a bad man who wanted to take away his mom and his dad,” Estrella says her son told her.
Her son was referring to a common fear children of undocumented parents feel: The idea that their parents will be deported while they are at school.
Estrella says she had to calm her son down before taking him to school Wednesday, by reassuring him that she wouldn’t allow Trump to hurt him or his family.
Estrella is an undocumented immigrant, who benefited from Obama’s 2012 immigration executive action.
Like many dreamers, she was brought to the United States illegally by her parents, in her case when she was 1.
Her fear is that Trump will use the power of the pen to undo Obama’s executive action on immigration.
“I am in limbo; but this is my home and we are not going anywhere. I grew up here. This is my country. This is where I’ve been all my life. And this is my kids’ home. This is their birthright. They are US citizens. This is their country,” Estrella says.
As a community organizer of a nonprofit, she says she is calming the fears of other immigrants in her community.
And while she feels that Trump’s win is a setback, she believes it’s a time for immigrants to maintain hope and for children like her 10-year-old daughter to stand up for her rights.
“I told her, ‘If anyone says anything to you just remember your rights. Remember who you are. Remember where you came from and educate them. Be positive and educate those who are ignorant, those who don’t understand the system and don’t understand the country,’” Estrella says.
Rosa in Chicago
Rosa, 22, says she feels a triple threat after Trump’s win because she is Mexican, a woman and a lesbian.
“I feel like it’s a bad dream,” Rosa said. “I feel there are so many things and so many people against me and what I believe in and what I am and it’s just very hard.”
Rosa was 9 months old when her parents brought her to the United States illegally.
She lived in the shadows until she obtained a work permit under Obama’s 2012 immigration executive order.
The first thing she did, she says, was get a job.
She says it would be difficult for a President Trump to deliver on his promise to deport the millions of undocumented people in the United States, including her and her parents.
But the fear of deportation, she says, is very real. So much so, her parents are thinking about self-deporting and so is she.
“I would also consider going with them, too, because they are all we have. I’m not going to stay here by myself,” Rosa says. “We are all concerned and scared.”
Cesar in New York
Cesar, 33, wants to find common ground with Trump supporters and figure out a path forward for everyone in the country.
“We want to ask people who voted for Trump to just understand that we also struggle, that we struggle with the same things. That we are not the culprits of their woes. We are not the group to blame for inequalities,” Cesar said.
Cesar was born in Guatemala and was brought by his family to the United States when he was 11 years old. He studied philosophy, human rights and theology in college and finished a year of law school. He received a work permit under Obama’s immigration executive order and hopes that Trump supporters see that immigrants contribute to society just like everyone else.
“Although the platform Mr. Trump ran was very much against immigrants and Latinos, we do contribute. We pay our taxes. We work to make this country great,” Cesar says.
When Trump won the election, Cesar says that the worry of deportation escalated in Latino communities.
The fear is very real, he says.
“We are all afraid of that possibility, because come January if his [Trump’s] policies are enacted, people fear for their safety, parents fear for their children and children fear for their parents,” Cesar says.
But Cesar is still hopeful. He believes that dialog with Trump supporters could help unite the country.
“I think that there is a lot more that unites us other than the hateful rhetoric that carried the election,” Cesar says.
Living in limbo
Ignacia Rodriguez, an immigration policy advocate at the National Immigration Law Center, says the deportation fears that dreamers are feeling are real and justifiable.
Those who took advantage of Obama’s executive action and were entered into the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program” only have temporary work permits, which will eventually expire, she says. When that happens, they are back to being undocumented and vulnerable to deportation.
It could happen even sooner if Trump and his future administration decide to do away with the program. The future of their status in the United States, she says, is in the hands of the President-elect and Congress.
President-elect Trump’s camp did not respond to a request for comment.