Lack of representation in Hollywood has long been a contentious issue, whether in the spotlight or behind the scenes. And when it comes to Latinos, the case is even more striking seeing how, as of 2015, Latinos officially outnumber whites in California. The few that do manage to break their way into the industry are already facing an uphill battle, and none more so than those with a DACA label to their name.
DACA is short for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order that granted work permits to anyone under 30 years of age who immigrated to the U.S. before their 16th birthday. We call them DREAMers.
California currently boasts the largest number of DACA recipients (216,060 since last September), and though it’s difficult to determine exactly how many, it is not improbable to imagine that a significant number of them are contributing to the Hollywood industry in one way or another. These young immigrants play an instrumental part in the state’s economy and a crucial role within the industry. But now, in light of the new administration, their fates are hanging precariously in the balance.
While running for office, President Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” DACA, criticizing it as an abuse of executive power that would only further illegal immigration. Much to the relief of the over 750,000 people who have thus far been approved for DACA, this has, as of yet, been an empty promise.
Unfortunately, there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring.
A recently published article on The Hollywood Reporter titled “Hollywood’s Immigrant ‘Dreamers’ Living in Fear of Trump’s Pledge to ‘Terminate’ DACA” gives us deeper insight into how the new administration is already changing the Hollywood landscape for these DREAMers and the alarming consequences the new policies might have on their lives. Here are some of their stories.
While studying at Ohio’s Miami University, Chilean-born Daniela Pierre-Bravo landed two summer internships in New York at Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment and MTV/Viacom. Because the gigs were unpaid, her undocumented status was never questioned. By the time she joined NBCUniversal’s page program, her DACA permit had come in, and she spent the next three years working her way up to becoming a bookings producer at MSNBC’s Morning Joe and working on a book alongside host Mika Brzezinski. A repeal of DACA could strip all of her hard work away.
Daniela Pierre-Bravo told The Hollywood Reporter:
“I’m used to living in a situation where you don’t know what’s coming next — you make sacrifices but don’t know if they’re going to pay off.”
Fabian Caballero was accepted to DACA in 2013 after coming to the U.S. from Argentina, but unfortunately, his undocumented status still looms over his personal life. Despite his marriage to an American citizen, he has found it difficult to obtain permission to leave the country and attend his brother-in-law’s European wedding. Caballero is now an editor for The Interpreter, a documentary that explores the US military’s use of Iraqi and Afghan translators. He lives in fear of not being allowed re-entry should he decide to travel overseas.
Fabian Caballero told The Hollywood Reporter:
“It’s just now everything seems so sketchy. Non-criminals with green cards are being denied entry.”
Filmmaker Maribel Serrano worked a number of odd jobs before her acceptance for DACA came through. A graduate of Venice High School, she is now finishing Mi Vida Daca, her documentary about DREAMers, while working for a non-profit funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Before, her DACA status was a point of pride. She now lives in sleepless anxiety over how the new administration might warp perceptions, and its potential to change the course of her career.
Maribel Serrano said to The Hollywood Reporter:
“My fear is that ‘DACA’ will deliberately be turned into a negative term, when in fact it represents motivated, creative, educated people who love the country that raised them.”
Victor Zuniga has been lucky: he landed his first job out of college despite his DACA application still going through and is now working as a graphic designer for a Hollywood-based ad agency, thanks to his renewed status. Crossing the border from Mexico to California in the dead of night, Zuniga arrived to the U.S. when he was just 12 years old. When his DACA status became official, it seemed like clear skies ahead. Now, while he makes no effort to hide his immigrant status, even talking about it openly with co-workers, Zuniga lives in fear for how quickly everything could change.
Victor Zuniga said to The Hollywood Reporter:
“I love what I do. I don’t see myself doing anything else.”