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Donald Trump has young, undocumented immigrants living in fear

Hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants to the U.S. are uncertain about their futures because of Donald Trump's victory. He promised to reverse a program started by President Barack Obama that protects them from deportation. Will he follow through on that pledge?

'She started to cry,' young woman says of her mother's reaction to Trump win

Immigration advocate Astrid Silva spoke at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. She grew up as an undocumented immigrant and is currently protected from deportation, but said she and her family live in fear and worry that Donald Trump as president would tear families apart. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Gracia Martinez, one of thousands of undocumented young immigrants in the United States, wasn't prepared for what happened on Nov. 8. She was confident Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump. As election night wore on, she and those gathered at her office realized it would be the other way around.

Martinez works at United We Dream, an organization dedicated to helping young immigrants, undocumented ones in particular, and their families. Stopping deportations is a key focus of their work.

"Immediately as we saw the results come in you could see fear settling in the eyes of the mothers," Martinez, 28, said in an interview.

We are preparing for all possible scenarios.- Ignacia Rodriguez, National Immigration Law Center

She broke the news that Trump had won to her own mother at 6 a.m. the next morning. It was not an easy phone call.

"She was quiet and she started to cry," said Martinez, who was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. when she was seven years old. She grew up in Dallas.

Trump kicked off his campaign with a speech that called Mexican immigrants rapists, and he promised to build a wall at the border to keep out illegal immigrants.

Martinez and her mother are among those Trump threatened to deport during his campaign, and they, like millions of other undocumented immigrants, are living now in a state of uncertainty and fear, as they wait to see which promises he keeps after he moves into the White House.

For young people who are currently protected from deportation under President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, emotions are running especially high.

'Really stressful' time

"This is bad. We're not going to understate how bad this moment is," said Martinez, who is one of about 741,000 people in the DACA program.

Obama introduced DACA through an executive action in 2012. It allows young undocumented immigrants who qualify for it to get work permits, go to college, get driver's licences and be spared the risk of deportation. The permits expire every two years.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally in Alabama on Dec. 17. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Trump pledged to reverse all of Obama's executive actions, which means DACA recipients are now in limbo, wondering if the program will continue or not.

"It's really stressful for immigrants and their families," Sally Kinoshita, deputy director at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said in an interview. 

When they applied for DACA they gave information to the government, including their address and parents' names. They were given an assurance the information wouldn't be shared with immigration enforcement agencies.

"Under a new administration, it's not clear that that same kind of assurance would be upheld," said Kinoshita.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, Trump acknowledged that the so-called "Dreamers" are "in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen." He also spoke of how they were brought to the U.S. at young ages, went to school here and "some have wonderful jobs."

Was he sounding a note of sympathy?

"We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," he told Time. He didn't elaborate on what that might be.

Preparing for the worst

Kinoshita said the comments are giving some people hope that he's softening on his promise to scrap DACA. But at the same time, they are also looking at the people Trump is surrounding himself with, and that causes concern. Trump picked Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, for example, to be attorney general. He's known to take tough positions on illegal immigration and border control, and if confirmed, he will be the country's top law enforcement official. 

"The fear is who he has put on his team includes really hardline anti-immigrant advocates," said Kinoshita.

Attorney general-designate Jeff Sessions cheers on the crowd during a Donald Trump rally on Dec. 17 in Mobile, Ala. Sessions is known for hardline anti-illegal immigration positions in Congress. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

The organizations that help undocumented immigrants are mobilizing and getting ready for a fight in case Trump does follow through with his deportation promises.

"We are preparing for all possible scenarios," said Ignacia Rodriguez, an advocate with the National Immigration Law Center.

Rodriguez said she's seen a lot of momentum already. DACA supporters are organizing on social media and elsewhere, making the case for the program to stay in place.

"It would be a waste to take away something that has allowed so many more opportunities for this population and leave them with absolutely nothing," said Rodriguez, who arrived in the U.S. from Chile when she was two years old. She only learned she was undocumented in her last year of high school. The 29-year-old recently obtained her citizenship through her mother.

'We are here to stay'

The NILC and other groups say they are advising those wanting to apply for DACA or reapply for a renewal that it's a personal choice and they have to weigh the potential risks and rewards.

Applications take a few months to process and Trump is just weeks away from taking office.

Demonstrators in support of immigrants gathered at city hall in Seattle on Nov. 9, the day after the election. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Losing DACA would be devastating to those who came out of the shadows, said Martinez, the United We Dream advocate, who was able to buy a house and a car and get a job she loves.

She said growing up she dreamed of this kind of life but never thought it would be possible. Her dream came true thanks to DACA, said Martinez.

"The prospect of living in this country having known what that feels like and then having that ripped from you is a difficult thing to process," she said.

Martinez said she and United We Dream are going to do everything in their power to ensure Trump carries on with DACA. They have a sense of determination and confidence that they will win, if they have to fight.

"We know that we are here to stay," she said. "This marks a new era of the immigrant rights movement."

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