Washington ‘Dreamers’ protect their hometown from flooding

Washington ‘Dreamers’ protect their hometown from flooding

There are two firefighters with a special motivation to serve as hundreds of people work to protect residents living along the Okanogan River near Tonasket. It’s the place Christian Garcia Herrera and Noe Vazquez grew up in and call home. But, they face uncertainty as mighty as the rising river that they’re working to hold back.

Garcia Herrera and Vazquez spent most of their lives making memories in the small town, in Northeast Washington. The Tonasket High School graduates are now Washington State Department of Natural Resources firefighters. They’re among nearly 200 DNR firefighters assigned to flood relief in Okanogan County.

“The DNR had a great chance to help and fill sandbags for people,” Vazquez said.

The best friends bonded not just by where they grew up, but also by where they were born, in Mexico. Both their families were forced to flee when Vazquez and Garcia Herrera were toddlers. First they moved to California and then to Washington.

Some people call them Dreamers. Those they’ve helped rescue from fires and floods might call them heroes.

“It’s a welcoming peace I get in my heart, I’d say, because I’m helping out, you know. It’s something I’m giving. I’m not expecting to receive something in return,” Garcia Herrera said.

The two men have legal DACA status but are left to wonder if that’ll last with the current administration’s stance on immigration and DACA. It was only a few months ago that President Donald Trump put the future of Dreamers at risk tweeting “NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

Just last year, Vazquez was detained in Tacoma after his DACA status was rescinded. Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz called a press conference to highlight Vazquez’s story. His status was renewed shortly after with some legal help.

“It’s uncertain and it’s just kind of scary because if I go back to Mexico, I don’t know what I will do. I have no experience there. I know the language, but that’s it,” Vazquez said.

Garcia Herrera echoed a similar sentiment.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve been here all our lives, you know,” Garcia Herrera said.

They have no connections to that country, but in the United States they have family members, friends, and a place they call home that they’re determined to protect.

“This country has received me. It has received my family and friends that I know. So, yeah, I want to be able to help out this country and help out my community,” Garcia Herrera said.