Corina Barranco turns 18 on March 11th. It’s the second most important date on her calendar. The first is this coming Monday, when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to end. If it goes, so does Barranco’s legal status, her job at McDonalds, her plans for college, and her hopes of becoming a citizen, a voter and a cop.
WKSU’s M.L. Schultze visited with one of the estimated 4,400 people in Ohio who arrived here -- undocumented -- as young children and fear the program that gave them legal status may now make them – and their families -- a deportation target.
’”It was like in the country. Very different from here, very different.”
Corina Barranco is a little fuzzy about her hometown. She was 5 when she and her mother set out on a three-day trip from Mexico across the border to Arizona. She wasn’t real clear then about what that trip meant. Except for one thing. She getting closer to Lorain, Ohio, and the father she hadn’t seen for a year.
“I was just beyond excited. Happy, content. I was going to see my dad again.”
The Rev. William Thaden of Lorain’s Sacred Heart Chapel says it’s Barranco’s nature to be happy.
"Corina is great. Corina is bubbly and full of energy and a positive person and she loves the opportunities she’s had since she’s been here.”
That energy takes her on a recent Monday from classes at Lorain High School to three hours of cleaning at Sacred Heart, stopping at McDonald’s to see her manager, then back to church for a Lenten discussion – at the end of which she darts up to people to collect money for the National Honors Society.
Uncertainty moves in
But these days, she’s also nervous.
“Since I have DACA, I was thinking they could get all my information and could just come for me.”
Barranco first registered for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals when she was 15. The program begun by the Obama Administration gave temporary legal status to people bought to the U.S. illegally as young children -- provided they met a long list of criteria – proof of when they arrived, a clean criminal record, school records. She remembers collecting school pictures, vaccination records, report cards.
It was stressful, she says, but a good, energizing stress.
“I couldn’t wait to get it because I knew that by getting DACA I could get a Social Security (number) and with that I could start working. I could also get a driver’s license. And somehow be protected. And not be scared.”
It was a lot different when she showed up to renew her status a few weeks ago, under a program President Trump plans to officially end on Monday unless Congress replaces it.
The woman who took Barranco’s paperwork and $425 fee said she would process the application, but couldn’t offer any guarantees. Barranco felt bad for her.
“She looked sad.”
So a new kind of stress is affecting every part of Barranco’s life.
Before she was hired, she told McDonald’s about her DACA status. They ran it up the corporate ladder and OK’d her employment. Her manager, Curtis Jones says that was a good call for the company.
“She’s always got a positive attitude, always ready to work, works good with everybody. She is awesome.”
She’s working about 15 hours a week, and pushing for more. As a DACA recipient, she’s barred from getting college financial aid, so even Lorain County Community College will be pricy for her. But if her DACA status expires, she’ll lose her job altogether.
Meanwhile, she’s given up her dream of becoming a police officer. Even if DACA survives, her lack of citizenship precludes that.
A different experience
Barranco’s two best friends are also DACA. Together, they’ve joined protests; she’s even lobbied Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown about the issue. But generally, she says she hasn’t shared much of her situation with schoolmates. Sometimes, she acknowledges, she’s a little jealous.
“My classmates, some of them, I don’t know if they’re graduating because they don’t care about their future, they don’t care. Just seeing them waste all their opportunities and me over here not being able to do what I want to do just because I’m not a citizen just breaks my heart.”
Keeping the faith
Barranco fights that with faith.
She jumps into the English-language discussion about Lenten sacrifice at Sacred Heart.
“I went to school with my ashes, and like people were looking at me and were like, ‘What’s that on your forehead? What does that mean?’ And I’ll be so glad to explain to them, ‘It means we came from ashes and to ashes we shall return.’ And that’s my faith.” :
Her mother and younger sister are in the Spanish-language discussion in the next room.
Father Bill, as Barranco calls him, notes that Sacred Heart was founded 65 years ago for the burgeoning Hispanic community in Lorain. One of its most important functions now, Thaden says, is to be a home.
“The rhetoric about immigrants is so alienating for them, they’re ‘Other.’ And here they’re not. So I think we can be family for them.”:
But the church also is helping with practical realities.
“Some of that, unfortunately has been -- some of the best of what we can do is get people ready to be deported.”
That includes helping to fill out paperwork to cover contingencies such as what happens to American-born children. Barranco’s younger sister, Ashley, was born here. If the family is deported, Ashley will stay with her godmother. Barranco says the paperwork made everything real.
“I think that’s the most difficult part, not talking about it but doing it because it hits you. It might happen and we need to be prepared."
Meanwhile, she prays. Including for Donald Trump.
“I pray for God to soften his heart and give him some knowledge and some wisdom and compassion.”