After the Trump era, the relief of a young “Dreamer” and her mother, settled for twenty years in the United States


Ganesha Toranzo woke up “relieved, with a sense of hope”, Thursday January 21. This young resident of northern Virginia, with long brown hair, wanted to travel a few kilometers to reach the National Mall the day before, and attend the inauguration of Joe Biden in Washington. Given the health and safety context, she and her mother, Miriam, were satisfied with a presidential speech on the small screen. A page then turned for the two women. “It felt so good to hear a leader speak, and not a tyrant”, Ganesha Toranzo smiles.

The same evening, this 24-year-old woman, of Bolivian origin and without American citizenship, let her joy burst out on Twitter. “Trump didn’t deport me! Daca [le programme américain de protection de jeunes immigrés en situation irrégulière] won, I’m going to work for a law firm and Trump didn’t get a second term. Bright days are ahead of us! ” At the same time, Joe Biden signed a first presidential decree (link in English) on the Daca program. The new White House tenant has strengthened it, while calling on Congress to act to protect these undocumented youth. A strong symbol for Ganesha and 700,000 other “Dreamers”, long established on American soil. They had been under threat of deportation ordered by the Trump administration for four years.

Ganesha Toranzo and Miriam welcome us to their modest brick building in Vienna, an affluent city about 30 minutes from Washington, in the heart of a development contrasting with the surrounding properties. In the basement of their residence, they open the door to a living room with beige walls, decorated with two tapestries sent from Cochabamba (Bolivia). It is from there, from a valley nicknamed “the garden of Bolivia”, that the mother and her two daughters left in 2000 to reach the United States. Miriam was 40 years old, Ganesha 4. Of this trip, this one keeps only one memory: the song Hotel California, upon arrival at the airport.

Ganesha celebrates his first birthday on American soil at the age of 5 (file photo).  (DR)

In Bolivia, Miriam worked alone for the home. This is what made her decide to leave. This mother of three children set out in search of a more stable and better paid position for a few years, in order to ensure them “a better life, a better future”. She had only one goal in mind, she explains in Spanish: an ambitious education and career for her children. Her son was not granted a visa, but Miriam was able to emigrate to North America with her two daughters. The Bolivian quickly got started in a dry cleaning – a position she still holds, twenty years later.

Ganesha Toranzo, who juggles to perfection between English and Spanish, was very early carried by the ambitions of his mother. “I was 5 or 6 years old, and I had only one goal: to learn English”, remembers the one who, as a child, saw Miriam leave early and come home late from work. Aware of maternal sacrifices, she immersed herself in reading and studying. As an immigrant, nothing would be simple: her older sister, for lack of sufficient documents to apply to certain universities, had no other choice but to return to Bolivia.

In June 2012, while Ganesha enters high school, the Obama administration launches a new program: the DACA. His promise? Protect for at least two years from the deportation of young foreigners, aged 15 to 31, who, like the teenager, arrived in the United States at a very young age. Some have no memory of their country of origin. If they meet all the criteria – more than five years of residence, a clean criminal record… – the situation of these immigrants is temporarily regularized. Enough to allow them to stay and work, especially since this program is renewable every two years.

Ganesha Toranzo still remembers the day she received her first letter of admission to the program. The document is carefully stored in the family apartment. “It was a day of joy”, sums up the young woman. For her mother too, Daca was a promise: that of seeing her life goal, a professional future for her children, become a little more reality. On the day of receiving the letter, Miriam “cried”. “The Daca program has been the source of great hope for us”, explains the mother.

A Daca program renewal letter for Ganesha Toranzo, January 21, 2021 at his home in Vienna, Virginia (USA). & Nbsp;  (VALENTINE PASQUESOONE / FRANCEINFO)

Without this sesame, his high school daughter with perfectly manicured nails imagined becoming a beautician instead. A course not very ambitious, but in theory easier to access for an immigrant without papers. “It was clearly a plan B”, recognizes the one who is now aiming for a career as a lawyer specializing in immigration matters. Indeed, Ganesha Toranzo was able to study political science: some American universities offer access for Daca beneficiaries.

In January 2016, his admission to Daca renewed, Ganesha Toranzo joined Brigham Young University in Idaho. We are ten months away from the presidential election, and the speech on immigration of one of the candidates for the Republican primary, Donald Trump, calls out. This supporter of a wall on the border with Mexico had drawn attention six months earlier for his xenophobic comments about “the criminals, the dealers, the rapists” Mexicans trying to reach the United States. “We were shocked that a candidate won support with racist remarks, relates Ganesha Toranzo. My mother pays taxes, she leads a classic American citizen life. We were very scared. “

At the evocation of the Trump era, Miriam, usually very calm, loses his temper. “I have met a lot of hard-working immigrants, harder than Americans, hammers the sexagenarian. I could tell he only paid attention to white people, and I was afraid something might happen because I don’t speak English well. ” The Bolivian’s situation is all the more fragile because since 2010, she has been one of the 11 million undocumented migrants residing in the United States. His family visa, which lasts for ten years, has not been renewed. As soon as he came to power, Donald Trump widened the scope of possible expulsions. Anyone who, in the judgment of a single immigration officer, poses a risk to public order or national security may be targeted.

“I was afraid of being deported. I started to see a few deportations after immigration services knocked on foreigners’ doors. I was afraid when someone knocked on my house.”

For the first time, employers are asking her for her resident card. The single mother is denied usual babysitting hours. The prospect of access to citizenship is even further removed for Miriam, yet on American soil for more than fifteen years. “Donald Trump was doing everything to ensure that people in an irregular situation have no voice”, let go of his daughter.

Both tell of a period when racist speech is free. Around them, the words implicitly targeting them multiply: a saleswoman from the neighborhood refusing to touch the ticket of an immigrant, students telling a Mexican friend of Ganesha to “go home”… The student’s concern grows when the Daca is targeted. On September 5, 2017, the Minister of Justice put an end to the program which had protected the “Dreamers” for five years. “That day I came back to my dorm and cried, describes Ganesha. I didn’t cry because I was sad, I cried because I was angry. I could not any more.”

“People would tell me that everything was going to be fine, that Trump didn’t really mean what he said. No, everything was not right. I was in danger of being deported in a snap.”

Ganesha Toranzo

to franceinfo

A nearly three-year legal battle ensued, reaching the country’s highest court. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court rules that the decision to remove Daca has been taken “in a capricious and arbitrary way”. The program remains active. For the “Dreamers”, it’s a breath of fresh air. Otherwise, Ganesha feared a forced return to Bolivia, which she hardly knows. “I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, let go of the young woman. I wanted to live the American dream, graduate from an American college and build my career, but it felt like I was living a nightmare instead. I was treated like a criminal. “

This pressure began to dissipate on the afternoon of November 7. The “Dreamer” was driving with her companion when news of Joe Biden’s victory fell. “I couldn’t help but cry, I was so relieved”, Ganesha Toranzo confides. With lth successor of Donald Trump, “I feel something that I haven’t felt in four years: hope and stillness.”

“I feel like I have a place in this country, even though I’m not an American citizen.”

Ganesha Toranzo

to franceinfo

With the decree signed by Joe Biden which strengthens the Daca program, the young Bolivian now says she is confident in obtaining American nationality. But when ? The answer will come from the immigration reform, led by the new president. The Democrat wants to offer people in an irregular situation the possibility of applying for a green card from five years of residence. All they need to do is pay their taxes and prove a clean criminal record. But the “Dreamers” could get a green card right away, then apply for US citizenship after three years. However, it will take the agreement of at least ten Republican senators (in addition to the 50 Democratic and independent senators) for this reform to see the light of day, indicates the British daily The Guardian. In any case, this easing opens up prospects for Ganesha Toranzo, who finds himself dreaming of a more political career, between Washington and La Paz.

Miriam prepares alfajores, Latin American pastries, at her home in Vienna, Virginia (United States) on January 21, 2021. (VALENTINE PASQUESOONE / FRANCEINFO)

In the living room, Miriam finishes preparing some alfajores, typical Latin American pastries. Will the single mother follow in her daughter’s footsteps, becoming American too? Nothing is less sure. If she is attached to the United States, Miriam “love Bolivia” and does not hide his desire to return. After twenty years of grueling work, she would like to retire and be closer to her family. With the feeling of a duty accomplished for his daughter: “A better life, a better future” for Ganesha, now that the threats are partially lifted.

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