On August 15, 2012, thousands of young adults in the United States were ecstatic. They were finally going to be given a chance to live freely without worry of deportation. Since then, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has helped nearly 800,000 young adults get a license, go to school, and work.
“DACA has improved my life in so many ways. DACA has allowed me to finally have a driver’s licence, to have a better paying job allowing me to be financially stable, and allowed me to keep moving forward on anything I put my mind into.” Oscar, 25, said.
Unfortunately, on September 5th, 2017, these DREAMers faced uncertainty once again. The Trump administration announced that the DACA program was ending and it was up to Congress to save it.
“It was like my whole world stopped. Everything that I had worked so hard for these past couple of years was about to be taken from me. I was absolutely heartbroken.” Stephanie, 22, said.
The DACA program was established by the Obama administration in June of 2012. The purpose of DACA is to help protect young immigrants who were brought here before 16 years old from deportation.
“I came to the United States when I was 9 months old. I never knew I was any different. I grew up singing the National Anthem, playing in my school band, and watching That’s So Raven. I was like any other American girl… or at least I thought I was.” Stephanie said.
For a lot of these DREAMers, the United States is all they’ve ever known. They grew up in our neighborhoods, went to our schools, played on our sports teams with us. These DREAMers grew up thinking they were American.
“When I first found out I was Undocumented it was as I was starting my Sophomore year in High School. I would see all of my school friends getting their driver’s permit and I found out I wasn’t able to because I didn’t have a social security number like everybody else did.” Oscar said.
“My life before DACA was pretty confusing and I was very lost and afraid for my family. My whole childhood and teenage years, I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2009, a year before I graduated HS, an anti-dreamer law passed (Proposition 300) meaning that every undocumented student would no longer be able to apply and receive any public scholarships and also meant we would have to pay out of state tuition I saw how that impacted my older brothers and my family, which I knew I had no opportunities to pursue a higher education.” Oscar said.
“In 2010, as I was graduating high school, an Anti-Immigrant law passed the senate (SB-1070) which allowed any police officer to pull you over for having the “suspicion” that you were undocumented. My family and I decided to move to a different state to avoid anyone of us being deported. At that time DACA did not exist and me recently graduating high school I had no ambition, no hope, and no guidance as to how to continue with my education, or my life in general.” Oscar said.
These students have faced obstacles all their lives. They’ve had to live in fear and uncertainty of the future.
“When I was 13 years old, my father was deported. He hadn’t committed any crime, he was pulled over for a broken taillight. I haven’t seen my father in nine years. Everyday I lived in fear that the same thing would happen to me. I was terrified and I was so young… no child should have to live like this. The DACA program gave me everything. It allowed me to do things I never thought I could.” Stephanie said.
Before DACA, and even today DREAMers have had give things up because of their citizenship status.
“The lack of having citizenship here in the U.S. has prevented me to serve in the military. In 2010, while in HS, I enrolled in ARMY training, went through all my PT training, was top of my class and had the highest scores on my pre-asvab test which determined my future in the military. Unfortunately, when the time came to fill out my paperwork for enrollment, I told my sargent I was undocumented and he told me I wasn’t able to serve.” Oscar said.
Not only has the end of DACA put thousands of DREAMers in fear of deportation, it has also put them in fear of deportation for their entire family.
“More than anything, I fear for my parents. The end of DACA not only does it put me in the scope of deportation but also my parents could end up getting deported as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has all of my information.” Oscar said.
Although many people believe DREAMers would be too scared to go out and let their voice be heard, that is definitely not the case. There has been rallies all over the country after the Trump Administration announced the end of DACA.
“Although we are scared and we put ourselves at risk when we raise our voice, our voice is the one thing that could help save us. It is so important we fight, not just for DREAMers but ALL undocumented immigrants.” Stephanie said.
“Keep fighting, keep pushing everyone to take action when needed. To lobby our legislators and all elected officials to pass not only the DREAMAct but also an Immigration Reform to fix this broken immigration system. Come out of the shadows because if no one knows your situation, no one is going to be able to help when in need.” Oscar said.
There are many misconceptions about DREAMers. Many don’t realize how much they do for our country. They pay taxes, and contribute in our economy and get such little in return. All these young immigrants want to do is live in the country in which they grew up.
“We don’t take or steal anyone’s job, undocumented immigrants do not receive federal benefits programs. They cannot receive Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Medicare, or food stamps.” Oscar said.
DREAMers make America great. They are a generation of youth with tremendous potential; they will stop at nothing to finally live at peace in a place they have always called home.
By Karen Orona, Environmental Committee Research Analyst