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DREAMers Share Powerful Stories About How DACA Has Transformed Their Lives
One of the first tests of Donald Trump’s presidency will be over the futures and livelihoods of the 750,000 DREAMers with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Trump’s pledge to end DACA on day one of his presidency is running headlong into the compelling personal stories of DACA recipients, who are providing powerful firsthand testimonials about how DACA has benefited their lives, futures, and communities.
Below are quotes and reflections from DREAMers featured in recent stories by Serena Marshall of ABC News, Julia Preston and Jennifer Medina of the New York Times, Miriam Jordan of the Wall Street Journal, and Jeffrey Brown of PBS Newshour.
As the Los Angeles Times editorialized this weekend, “Trump could begin to assuage the anxieties of immigrant communities — and embrace basic human decency — by preserving DACA as a bridge to true, and humane, immigration reform, and recognizing that holding onto young people raised and educated here would be good for the country.”
Juan Escalante of Florida (ABC News): “In the country that refused my contributions and talents, when deferred action was announced I felt immediately validated. It allowed me to demonstrate I am going to work hard I am going to contribute to my economy … When we as a community decided to move forward and apply for this program we did it with good will … also understanding information wasn‘t going to be used as a massive database to target our community. A lot of people bracing for what may come next.”
Renata Mauriz of New Jersey (ABC News): “DACA made me more confident in terms of dreaming of higher goals… The thought of having DACA revoked — it will completely change the path I take … At this point my English is better than my Portuguese. A life back there is really hard to imagine at this point, especially after everything we’ve built here. It would be starting from scratch, which is a scary thought … My hope comes from, really, the community and people power that I’ve witnessed in the past week.”
Juan Gallegos of Colorado (ABC News): “I grew up undocumented in this country. I remember living in Hastings, Nebraska, and there was a raid at the meatpacking plant. I remember seeing all those children left at school with nobody to pick them up from school. It’s not new. It’s happened before. We deal with it; we cope … You can lash at us you can detain us. Do whatever you want to us but we are going to come back and stronger every time.”
Carlos Roa of Illinois (New York Times): “Brought to the United States from Venezuela as a toddler, Carlos Roa was among the first young undocumented immigrants to be protected from deportation under a program President Obama set up in 2012 by executive action. Since then Mr. Roa, now 29, has put himself through college and is training to be an architect, drafting blueprints at a Chicago firm. ‘I have been here for 27 years, and I am not going anywhere,’ … Mr. Roa, in Chicago, recalled that a decade ago he was afraid to confess his undocumented status to other students or have his photograph published in a newspaper. ‘Do you really think we are going back in time?’ he asked. ‘I am going to be kicking and screaming.’”
Ruben Rivas of California (New York Times): “In 2012 Mr. Rivas, the son of undocumented immigrants who spent their lives working minimum-wage jobs, graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in business finance. He applied that year for DACA, never stopping to worry about offering the government details about his life. Now he works as a financial consultant and co-owns a small income tax firm. ‘The first thought I had is that I have done everything right and it is all going to be taken away from me,’ he said of his fears for the future of the program. ‘It feels a little bit like a betrayal. I’ve been here since I was 4 years old. I’m an American.’
Diana Chacon of New York (PBS Newshour): “DACA changed my life. It allowed me to be involved in school more, spend more time doing my class work assignments, spend more time applying for programs, and just get involved in my community in general. I stopped making excuses for who I was and what position I was in. I was so encouraged to keep going. I was encouraged to pursue law school. I knew that all the things I have been doing to this point were projecting me into a better future, into a better life. And all of that’s going to change because, you know, now Donald Trump is president.”
Maria Xirun Tzoc of California (Wall Street Journal): “Maria Xirun Tzoc, brought to the U.S. illegally when she was 4 years old, played Christian music during her drive to work the morning after the election. ‘Mr. Trump, please don’t take away DACA … Without DACA, I’d lose the job I love,’ said the 21-year-old Guatemalan, who helps patients navigate insurance and check in at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. ‘I could get deported.’ … ‘I’m scared, but I need to have faith. I pay all my taxes; I love what I do.’”
Eli Oh of California (Wall Street Journal): “Before qualifying for DACA, Eli Oh worked as a waiter. ‘I had good grades, I went to college,’ said the 29-year-old South Korean who arrived in the U.S. when he was 11. ‘When DACA happened I was able to pursue nursing.’ Today, he is on the critical-care response team at Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, Calif. Mr. Oh said he feels ‘betrayed’ by the prospect of DACA’s demise. ‘I thought that with DACA I was finally safe,’ he said … ‘I am working a lot of overtime and saving money’ in case the program ends. If he has to leave the U.S., he said he would consider Canada, where nurses are also in demand.”