CINCINNATI -- Jose Cabrera was 4 years old when he and his mother crossed the border from Mexico to start a new life in the United States. The transition, he said Wednesday, was overwhelming at first.
“It seems as if you’ve entered a whole new world,” Cabrera said. “The language is different, the ideas are different and the way of life is different.”
Cabrera, now a junior pursuing a double major at Xavier University, was able to pursue his college education because of DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The policy, started in June 2012 by the Obama administration, makes undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthdays eligible for temporary immunity to deportation.
DACA beneficiaries such as Cabrera must be high school graduates or honorarily discharged soldiers who have remained in good standing with the law, and they must renew their DACA eligibility every two years. DACA does not provide a path to legal citizenship -- only a respite from deportation.
The program allowed Cabrera to remain in the country he calls home and become a proud Xavier Musketeer. However, President Donald Trump’s sweeping, restrictive actions on immigration also mean it may not exist for much longer.
“It makes you feel like at any moment your whole future, your hard work could just be thrown away in the trash,” Cabrera said of Trump’s stated plans for the future of immigration policy.
The leaders of Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, an organization that runs Su Casa Hispanic Center for Latino immigrant families in Cincinnati, also said they disagree with policies that would make life harder for families like Cabrera’s.
“We believe that we should be protecting the vulnerable, serving the vulnerable and assisting them in their quest to have a better life,” said CEO Ted Bergh.
On the other side of the issue, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones spent Wednesday sending letters to the White House, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and United States Attorney General Loretta Lynn. In those letters, he urged state and federal authorities to strip funding from places that protect undocumented immigrants -- so-called "sanctuary cities."
"It’s time now that if you come to this country, you need to be vetted,” said Jones, a vocal supporter of Trump whose hard-line immigration policy has made news for more than a decade. "It’s totally out of control, and it’s going to change, and it has to change."
Jones added that he did not believe exceptions should be made for those like Cabrera, who have lived most of their lives in the United States, or for families that would be divided by deportation.
“We don’t get to choose what laws we enforce," he said. "Because these people are relatives of ours, because these people are friends, because these people are from different groups. ... Justice is supposed to be blind. It’s supposed to be fair for everybody.”
For Ted Bergh, the ahead course is equally clear -- and diametrically opposed.
"Pope Francis said to build bridges and to welcome these individuals with compassion and help them in their quest, and so that’s what our message will continue to be," he said. ""To be American is to welcome this population and to work with them."