Georgia's DACA recipients tell story through art, advocacy

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Georgia's DACA recipients tell story through art, advocacy

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HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Artist Roberto Hernandez's recently painted mural on Buford Highway reflects the story of undocumented immigrants such as himself who he said strive for freedom, as represented by the bird, and education, as represented by the nautilus shell. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

A generation of young, undocumented immigrants have turned to art, political pressure, and social media as they fight for legal protections to work and live in the United States. 

Roberto Hernandez, a 31-year-old recipient of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, drew inspiration from his own life as an undocumented immigrant to create a freshly painted mural that now adorns Buford Highway.

He is one of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came here as children, including an estimated 21,600 in Georgia as of early September, whose American way of life is endangered unless President Donald Trump and Congress reach a deal to extend DACA. 

Raymond Partolan, 24, identifies himself as an American, Georgian, and a southerner. He's also a recipient of the endangered Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Born in the Philippines, Partolan's parents brought him to the United States when he was 15 months old. Now he's working as an immigration paralegal in an Atlanta law firm.

In early September, Trump announced a six-month phase-out of the policy. Without a political solution, DACA recipients won’t be able to legally work in the U.S. when their paperwork expires.  For some, that will come as soon as March 6.

The ticking clock intensified the already vigorous activism among politically and media savvy young immigrants who are telling their stories in an effort to save the program.

“There’s clear urgency. There’s clear support from the nation,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA recipient and advocacy and policy director of the national organization United We Dream. “We’ve built a movement. I think we’ve come out of the shadows.” 

Read more about how young immigrants are mobilizing on a tight deadline and opposition they face here.

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