Until Tuesday morning, Sandra Perez, a young film student at University of Southern California, had her entire future mapped out.
Perez was headed for Hollywood in the hopes of becoming the next Guillermo del Toro when President Trump announced he was ending DACA, an Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Perez told TheWrap. “I just have no idea.”
Perez, 28, who is graduating this fall, said the announcement could mean she’d have to return to her native Mexico, the country left at the age of 13.
“The plan was to continue writing and look for job in the entertainment industry,” Perez, 28, told TheWrap. “But now I can’t work for anyone.”
Since its inception, DACA has protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation. But on Tuesday Trump ordered an end to the program, calling it an “amnesty-first approach.” Trump has given Congress six months to create legislation codifying DACA. If no such legislation is created, he has suggested he will undo DACA with an executive order. Such legislation is unlikely under the Republican-controlled House and Senate, which refused to do so under Obama.
Perez, an aspiring writer and director, was hoping to tell immigrant stories after finishing film school. But all that has now been put on hold, until she figures out what to do next.
“I’m mostly frustrated and angry,” she said.
The Hollywood community is already bracing for possible ripple effects following Trump’s decision, warning the move to end DACA could have negative economic ramifications to the entertainment community.
“What Trump is doing is not only immoral and cruel, it’s also bad for business,” Santiago Pozo, CEO and Founder of Arenas Entertainment, a media company specializing in marketing to U.S. Latino audiences, told TheWrap. “This is crazy.”
DACA, established via executive order by the Obama administration in 2012, offers two-year work permits and temporary Social Security numbers to so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants under 30 who were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday. In order to get the permit, Dreamers are required to either finish high school (or still be enrolled) and stay out of legal trouble. Since its inception, DACA has protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Pozo, himself a former undocumented immigrant who later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, says he’s the perfect example of why eliminating DACA is detrimental to Hollywood’s economy.
“Arenas has paid millions of dollars in taxes, social security, and has made all kinds of contributions to society,” he said. “This company, started by an undocumented immigrant, has given employment to hundreds of people. Hundreds of families make a living through the jobs that I created. This is repugnant and stupid because it’s going to hurt the economic fiber of America.”
The end of DACA could also have an effect on Hollywood’s increasingly diverse talent pool, just as the Hispanic community is becoming more visible on TV and film.
“Anything that limits our ability to attract good people who are highly motivated and want to be here hurts us all,” Allen Mayer, head of 42 West’s Strategic Communications Division, told TheWrap.
Trump’s decision to end DACA has baffled leaders of the Latino community, who say it muzzles those whose voices need to be heard the most.
“Already media has a huge diversity problem when it comes to connecting with the next generation of storytellers,” Beatriz Acevedo, president and co-founder of Mitú, a Latino-centric online content developer, told TheWrap. “Dreamers at risk might never be able to have a chance to tell their story and that is a big loss not only for the creative community but for our country as well.”
In the meantime, Perez says she’s trying to figure out how to absorb the news and figure out her next step.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I don’t even know how to feel.”