On several days in September, a line of sign-holding locals stood along a busy street in Shelton waving to drivers. Many of the drivers waved back, some honked, in a heartening show of support. The drivers were going about the serious business of life in this former lumber town.
The ones holding the signs were there on behalf of the estimated 1500 “Dreamers” who go to school and work in Mason County. All of the Dreamers came to the US as youngsters and were in 2012 given the opportunity to go to school here, and to work, without fear of deportation, under a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
President Obama initiated DACA with a number of caveats: You were eligible for DACA only if you could prove you’d been brought to the US when you were under 16, and applied when you were between the ages of 15 and 31. More than half of those now in the program came to the US when they were under 7 years old. The program has enabled thousands of people throughout the US to concentrate on learning and working rather than on worrying about being arrested and sent back to a country they barely remembered. The nickname “dreamers” attached to recipients as DACA gave them room to pursue the American dream.
Mason County has a small but thriving immigrant community. On September 5, the Trump Administration announced that beginning October 5, it would no longer renew DACA permissions; and would not accept new applicants. The announcement was accompanied by misleading statements that seemed to suggest that the program had had a variety of negative effects. Realizing that the administration’s selective use of facts might presage further threats to DACA recipients, a group of local residents decided to take action to support their neighbors.
“Elevate Mason County” exists to effect positive change in the local community, particularly on behalf of marginalized and/or at-risk people. The name denotes the idea that a community can only succeed if everyone is lifted up, irrespective of race, color, creed or circumstance.
Members of Elevate have been working in depth with the local immigrant community, many of whom view the march as an important demonstration of support. Ricardo Del Bosque, a long time Shelton community member and an immigrant, says the march is important “…so we know we are not alone. We are together, we are united and we are assets to the community.” Speaking of the immigrant presence here in Mason County, he said: “We have roots in this community, we have kids and grandkids here. We are part of the solution!”
“The word ‘elevate’ can be applied to nearly any issue that needs attention, support, protection, or change,” said Stacie Gilkeson, a founding member of the group. “This can include poverty, hunger, jobs, education, healthcare, etc. Much of the focus right now is going towards immigrant protections and solidarity work. As a group, we felt that this was an area of concern and the strongest pull to action. Our hope is to continue building a foundation upon which we can grow and sustain a long-term, local presence. It is all still unfolding which is exciting, and I believe we are organizing Elevate Mason County in such a way as to be malleable to the needs that rise up in our community.”
This article is adapted from a press release by Elevate Mason County and Stacie Gilkeson.
For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/elevatemasoncounty/
Are we a nation of laws?
On the one hand: Trump’s statement ending DACA: “There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will.
I do not favor punishing children….for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws…”
On the other hand: The Department of Homeland Security will waive 37 environmental laws and regulations to build prototypes of President Trump’s planned border wall and replace existing border infrastructure along a 15-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico boundary. [Not to mention Trump’s speedy intervention on behalf of one-time Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio—an officer of the law and felon guilty of criminal contempt for disregarding a court order—i.e, refusing to obey the law.]