Former President Barack Obama recently held a roundtable discussion with five recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to mark the program’s 10th anniversary.
The discussion was recorded at New World Stages, where ¡Americano!—the new musical that tells the story of DACA recipient Tony Valdovinos—plays. The conversation also featured and highlighted the stories of Valdovinos, Jessica Astudillo, Devashish Basnet, Josue de Paz, and Sumbul Siddiqui, five DREAMers who grew up in the United States as undocumented immigrants.
Watch highlights from the discussion in the video above.
Reflecting on their stories, President Obama said, “Having seen the remarkable things that this group of DACA kids have done with their lives, what an asset they are to this country. I hope it inspires us to redouble our efforts to permanently resolve their status.”
“I could not be more honored that President Barack Obama chose the set of ¡Americano! as the place to mark the 10-year anniversary of DACA,” added Valdovinos. “It was truly inspiring to sit down with President Obama and these incredible DREAMers. We were grateful to share our personal stories, our challenges and the successes, which were made possible because of DACA. Thank you President Obama for the opportunity.”
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced DACA to offer “a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.” Aimed at undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, DACA was announced as an executive action that provided temporary protection from deportation and access to other opportunities, including work eligibility. Since 2012, more than 800,000 people have been enrolled in the program.
The conversation comes at a time when the future of protections offered under DACA remain uncertain. While the more than 600,000 active DACA recipients can currently continue to renew their temporary protections, DREAMers still lack a permanent solution to their immigration status and many young people who might have been previously eligible for the program have not been able to enroll due to ongoing court challenges.
Following a record-setting 2020 run at Arizona’s Phoenix Theater Company, ¡Americano!—the new musical based on the life of DREAMer Tony Valdovinos—officially opened at Off-Broadway's New World Stages May 1 following previews that began March 31. The limited run is scheduled through June 19.
Sean Ewing (West Side Story, The Visitor), who starred in the Arizona production, heads the cast as Valdovinos alongside Legna Cedillo, Yassmin Alers, Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda, Joseph Paul Cavazos, Lucas Coatney, Devin Cortez, Juan Luis Espinal, Justin Figueroa, Ruben Flores, Megan Elysa Fulmer, Henry Gendron, Anne-Lise Koyabe, Alessandro J. Lopez, Edgar Lopez, Carolina Miranda, Alex Paez, Ryan Reyes, Lannie Rubio, Nicole Paloma Sarro, Robbie Serrano, Maria Cristina Posada Slye, and Pablo Torres.
¡Americano! features a score by singer-songwriter Carrie Rodriguez, a book by Michael Barnard, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Fernanda Santos, and additional lyrics by Barnard and Rosenberg. Barnard also directs.
The new musical explores the life of Valdovinos, who was brought to America by his parents when he was two. Inspired by 9/11, on his 18th birthday Valdovinos walked into a Marine Corps recruitment office to enlist, only to discover his parents hadn’t told him he was an undocumented immigrant.
Developed in association with Amas Musical Theatre, ¡Americano! features choreography by Sergio Mejia, orchestrations and arrangements by Sergio Mendoza, music direction and vocal arrangements by Jonathan Ivie, scenic design by Robert Andrew Kovach, costume design by Adriana Diaz, lighting design by Jamie Roderick, sound design by Kevin Heard, and hair and make-up design by Krystal Balleza. Tony winner Ken Davenport is the executive consultant.