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For Two Immigrant Artists, American Dream is Uncertain

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What would our local arts communities look like without DACA? Just ask Johan, a standup comedian, and Lauren, an actress and musician, whose emerging careers are a direct result of the freedom and stability afforded by the program.

Implemented in 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) granted individuals who entered the United States as minors temporary protection from deportation — along with work permit eligibility.

Johan was born in Peru and grew up in San Francisco’s Fillmore District, not even knowing he was undocumented until he was a teenager. Simple freedoms his friends enjoyed in high school were unavailable to him — like getting a driver’s license and making plans for college.

In Los Angeles, Lauren, whose family came from Korea when she was a child, remembers the helplessness of being stuck between the only country she’s known and the impossibility of living a full life here. “Why was I in this country, if I can’t fulfill my dreams?” she says.

Then DACA was announced in 2012, and their lives were filled with possibility.


Able to drive, work, receive loans and attend college, Johan and Lauren pursued their artistic goals, performing and gaining career momentum. But now that their immigration status is once again in question, they stand to lose it all. Watch above as Lauren reflects between performances and teaching music lessons, and Johan uses his place behind the mic to convey the enormous uncertainty that they – and 800,000 others – face at this moment. — Text by Sarah Hotchkiss

This story was supported by the journalism non-profit the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

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