Trump’s election has led to an uncertain, difficult time for immigrants. Although consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is being kept intact during his presidency so far, all people under his executive orders are afraid of being deported, including students who have permission to live in the United States. But the question is, what will they do if Trump changes his mind and deports all of them at any time during his presidency? This is important to me because I want immigrants like me to take advantage of the opportunities this country offers for success.
After Obama’s reelection in 2012, he promised to have an executive order to protect certain people from deportation, allowing those who have a Social Security number and work permit to work legally in the United States. On June 15, 2012, Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, announced that, “Certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.” We called this Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The people who take advantage of the program are often called DREAMers. This is a reference to the failed Congressional DREAM Act of 2010, which would have created a similar policy.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 80% of DACA applicants were granted permission to stay in the United States with no risk of deportation. And the experience for people under DACA has been more positive than negative. DACA recipients are happy that they can travel outside the U.S. for educational purposes. Before, they had to ask for a permission called “Advance Parole,” which made them guarantee they would return to the country.
For example, I interviewed Sharon, a current recipient of DACA at UC Berkeley who entered this program for this reason. She said, “I applied to DACA because I wanted to have the opportunity to travel back to Mexico to visit my family. At first I was very hesitant because I did not want my information to be in the government’s database, but then I realized that it could provide me with more opportunities.” She was able to do a paid internship in the U.S., as well as travel internationally for school. This is an example of how the program opens opportunities for undocumented immigrants to work legally in the country, explore other countries, and get an education. I admire Sharon because her story teaches me that being an undocumented student does not stop you from succeeding, and I am excited to see her working to help the community.
It is too early in the process to see any changes to the country’s immigration laws, but for sure we will overcome any new obstacles interfering with our dreams. When I asked Sharon how she is preparing for any changes to DACA, she said, “If he takes DACA away, I would not be surprised. I do not have a plan because when I arrived to this country without ‘proper’ documentation, I was able to overcome many challenges. Although I have DACA, I have never stopped identifying as an undocumented immigrant. I see the hard work that my parents do every day and they are still here with their resilient fight to continue, to keep going. I am not going to give up. . .” In addition, Daniel Gonzalez from the Arizona Republic found that, “In anticipation of losing their work permits, some ‘dreamers’ are trying to save as much money as they can. Others are looking into going into business for themselves. Still others are looking into moving to Canada, or another country where they will be able to continue their careers. Many also said they would have to resort to finding jobs with employers willing to pay them off the books.”
It is an unpredictable time for us, but we are not going to give up. We are united to fight for our human rights, better education, health, housing, and safety. We didn’t decide where to be born. But what we do decide is where we go for better opportunities in life and what we do to make the best accomplishments we can for a better world.