Young immigrants on edge after DACA repeal, column by Cheyenne Lira

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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been in the spotlight for three weeks now. There is currently talk about a bipartisan agreement being composed to satisfy both political parties.  The topic hits home for me because it reminds me of one of my talented best friends, Ellie Virrueta. Her artwork is displayed, along with her picture.

What you can’t tell about Ellie from the photos is that she is a bright and passionate person. Another thing you can’t tell is that she has been able to live out a relatively normal life, thanks to DACA.  

Individuals who are under DACA are referred to as DREAMers. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), was launched in 2001 and is designed to set up a path that grants recipients U.S. citizenship. Since the beginning, Congress has made numerous attempts to pass the DREAM Act as a bill but with no success.

In 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security at the time, Janet Napolitano, created DACA. Until it was annulled Monday, Sept. 5, it served as safety net for those who were brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents.

Under DACA approximately 800,000 young adults, including Ellie, were given opportunities to advance and better themselves. These people were eligible to receive a driver’s license, work permits and continue on to higher education. They were able to do this without the constant paranoia of being torn away from their families and the lives they have created here.

Print_Copy_Issue_2-006Published by, on Sept. 13, it was announced by Democratic Senate and House minority leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, that after a meeting with President Trump, they are working on a bipartisan agreement for DACA. At a press conference the following day, republican House Speaker Paul D. Ryan stated what occurred the previous night was merely a discussion. Ryan also added that any agreement must have a buy-in from GOP leaders.

The potential agreement looks different for both parties. The democrats would like to make a deal that excludes the funding of Trump’s wall. However, White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders commented that, “While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to.”

While supporters like myself, and recipients of DACA anticipate to hear the formal agreement, I believe that this is a step in the right direction because these young adults have worked hard and abided by the rules to earn their success.

“Because of DACA I was able to come out of the shadows,” said Virrueta. “In order to obtain DACA, I had to pass a rigorous background check to ensure that I was not a threat to the country. I also have had to get fingerprinted every two years and pay a $495 renewal fee but…it is worth it because I was able to get a social security number which, in return, allowed me to obtain a driver’s license, attend college, work legally and most importantly, it meant that I was safe from deportation as long as I maintained good conduct.”

If the “American Dream” still values determination, hard work, and the equal opportunity for prosperity; then there are no better candidates than DREAMers.

Virrueta shared that there are no free passes for DACA recipients. She went on to say that one of the biggest misconceptions is that they don’t have to pay taxes. She explained that, “In reality, it’s the benefits that we are not able to access; meaning that at the beginning of the year, we are not able to get the money that was cut from our checks because we are undocumented. In short, we have to pay taxes but we do not receive any of the benefits. We are also ineligible for federal government assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid, Obamacare subsidies, financial aid, and are also unable to take out loans for school.”

UnlPrint_Copy_Issue_2-011ess someone walked up to you and said, “Hi, I’m a recipient of DACA”, you would have never know that they are undocumented. DREAMers are teachers, nurses, students, protectors of this country and so much more than their label of “illegal.”

The foundation of America stems from people leaving their homelands and coming to the land of opportunity. The Protestants, pilgrims, survivors of the Holocaust, were all immigrants at one point and they chose to seek refuge in America. The eras that these people arrived here may be different but their reasoning is similar. These people came to this country wanting freedom and financial opportunities. Parents of DREAMers wanted the same for their children, they sacrificed and took risks to give their children a life they didn’t have for themselves.

Like so many others, my friend has grown-up in this country. Her ethnicity is different, but her roots are planted in American soil. If DACA is not reinstated it will affect more people than herself.

She said, “If [DACA] is not replaced it would have a severe impact on my family. I have a 6-year-old brother and he is now scared to open the door or simply answer the phone because he thinks that la migra [immigration officers] are calling or are at the door for me. He does not understand why I have a constant target on my back.”

In the end, DREAMers are people, people who have an investment and love for this country. As Virrueta said, “rescinding DACA is preventing us from giving back to a country that we call home.”

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