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Feb 2, 2018

Bel-Am Denea Joseph’s DACA Dreams

Denea Joseph

Earlier this week we told you about the Belizean who attended the State of the Union Address. It wasn’t a diplomat or a highly politically connected person – it was a young girl from Belize who is living undocumented in the US and has been at the forefront of the immigration fight. She is at risk of being deported since President Donald Trump announced in September that he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that offers certain securities to young persons who migrated to US as children. Joseph has been all over the international news in recent months and with her invitation to the State of the Union address – she has gotten an even bigger platform to share her story. She is arguably the only Belizean in the U.S who is championing immigration fight and advocating for the dreamers but she is not the only Belizean who is undocumented in the US. Today we spoke with Denea Joseph via Skype and she says she wants more stories like hers to be told.

 

Donald Trump

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Twenty-three-year-old Denea Joseph left Belize and went to the US when she was only seven-years-old. It has been sixteen years since she last saw her family in person. She is a university graduate with dreams of becoming an attorney, but she is also undocumented. And she is fighting for the rights of eight hundred thousand “dreamers” like herself. In September of last year the Trump Administration announced it would revoke Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – a policy that offers some protection to undocumented persons who were taken to the US as minors. Denea is a DACA recipient:

 

Denea Joseph, DACA Recipient

“We have had Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals for five years now. It is a merit based program that. A program in which you have to submit $495 dollars every two years just to remain qualified. You have to submit to a federal background check. You have to pay your taxes. You have to prove your viability in this nation. So, a lot of people try to make it seem as it’s a handout but they never mention how much the homeland department of security of this government is getting as a result of the fees that are a being charged and the taxes that undocumented people continue to pay.   If he [President Donald Trump] does what he says which is that he wants a piece of legislation that only benefits one point eight million undocumented people, remember there is eleven point five million undocumented people in this country and if you have to give it to one percent – a small percentage of people – we are going to be right back in this position all over again in the next few years.”

 

An advocate for the “Dreamers”, Denea is using her platform to raise awareness and fight for the rights of young undocumented persons in the US. Earlier this week, Senator Kamala Harris invited Denea to the State of the Union address.

 

Denea Joseph

“I expected to be the first Belizean represented in that space. Historically, when they talk about immigration in this country, it is always represented as something that impacts Latino people and Latino people alone. But being a black immigrant from Belize is something that you never hear, so being represented in that space was crucial for me. I didn’t expect much from what the President had to say because he has made it very clear about how he feels about the immigrant population and especially about somebody who is a DACA recipient. He has been trying to pin the 800,000 DACA recipients against the remainder of the immigrant population in this country. So, my expectations for his speech weren’t high. My expectation was for my community; to make sure that we were given the platform to tell the stories that aren’t told on this national scale.  When he gave that speech, a few weeks prior to that, he eliminated the work visas for people from Belize, Haiti and Samoa. So, if that isn’t enough of a representation of his anti-black and xenophobic sentiments pertaining to our population, that should let you know. He tried to make it seem as though DACA recipients are the equivalent of MS13 gang. So, as I left that space, I didn’t feel either better or worse. I felt as though we were at an impasse and we cannot move forward if we do not set these misconceptions straight about our community.”

 

There are eight hundred thousand DACA recipients– of that number majority are from Latin America and Mexico. It is estimated that there are about two thousand DACA recipients from the Caribbean region. Denea, perhaps the only Belizean at the forefront of the advocacy, says she wants more stories like hers told.

 

Denea Joseph

“I have received nothing but positive messages of affirmation from our Belizean community. But we need more stories. We need to showcase that Belizeans being present in this country is norm, not an exception. I am not the only one. I run into Belizeans all the time, like you mention, but the problem is that not just Belizeans but the people from the African Diaspora, we feel the need to keep our heads down and just get by and clearly that is not enough. Just a few week ago, this President referred to countries like Haiti and countries of the African Continent as being ‘shithole’ countries. This is proving that he is anti-black and xenophobic and this administration has been nothing but racist throughout its entire term. So, we need to be able to showcase that our stories exist, that we are here and we are fighting and we are contributing to the social, economic and political fabric of this very nation. Our diaspora is strong and one of the largest segments of Belizeans in this country is in LA where I live. So, the time is now to stand up and tell our experiences if we are able to.”

 

But with the expiration date on DACA looming – what’s next for Denea and hundreds of thousands of dreamers? She says – almost twenty thousand have already lost their DACA status since the announcement in September but the fight continues to remain in the US – after all, that is the home they know.

 

Denea Joseph

“What that tells me is that we have to fight very hard because they moved the deadline from December to January and then they moved it to February eight, and when you look February eight, they try to move it to March fifth, 2018. That is incredibly problematic. One hundred and twenty-two DACA recipients lose their status with each passing day. So, since September 2017, over seventeen thousand people have become subject to detention and deportation in this country because of what this President is doing. The time is now for us to be able to pass a clean Dream Act that doesn’t criminalize some segments of the immigrant population and ensure that we have access to continue to provide for our families.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Bel-Am Denea Joseph’s DACA Dreams”

  1. emma says:

    Wow! nothing humbling about this woman. You should be angry at your parents not the President, they brought you to the U.S. illegally. I am a Belizean and I am humble and grateful that I get to live here in the States, I am not demanding anything from anyone. Get over yourself!!!! Again, you should be angry at your parents and the government past and present of Belize who have and are robbing the Belizean people blind and destroying the country overtime. GET OVER YOURSELF! YOU POMPOUS BRAT!! Stop tainting the image of grateful and humble Belizeans like me.

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