Cleveland, OH – In a powerful story by Time, Charlotte Alter details the life of Ohio Dreamer and high school student Corina Barranco. This isn’t just a story about an individual, but a larger narrative on the struggles of being a young, undocumented resident here in the United States and opportunities that American citizens take for granted, such as being able to drive a car and apply for financial aid.
Read excerpts from the Time piece below. You can find the whole story here:
… Barranco, short and cheerful, is one of nearly 800,000 young immigrants in the U.S. who have been shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Enacted by President Obama, it gave work permits and legal protections to young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children — a group dubbed the “Dreamers.” But in September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration would rescind DACA on March 5, nominally buying Congress time to renegotiate the program. The result has been predictably messy, ensnaring all three branches of government. Immigration advocates sued, and a federal judge blocked the Trump Administration from ending DACA while the lawsuits proceed.
For their part, congressional leaders from both parties have tried to find consensus. But after months of negotiations, a bipartisan deal failed in the Senate on Feb. 15, earning just eight Republican votes as the White House campaigned to kill it. As long as immigration hard-liners like senior White House adviser Stephen Miller are “in charge of negotiating immigration,” complained Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime proponent of immigration reform, “we’re going nowhere.” President Donald Trump, who promised to protect DACA kids, has taken to blaming Democrats for failing to save a program imperiled by his own Administration. And after the Supreme Court declined to hear the Trump administration’s challenge to a federal court’s block on ending DACA, the issue is at a stalemate: DACA will not end on March 5, but Congress has also lost a deadline that could have spurred action to fix the program.
Barranco doesn’t know any of this. She has never heard of Stephen Miller or Lindsey Graham; she doesn’t know about Jeff Sessions or House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. All she knows is that she has to apply for her DACA renewal soon and that she’s not sure if she will get it, and what will happen if she doesn’t. “It feels like boom boom in my chest. I get panicky,” she says over lunch. “If they take away DACA, I won’t be able to work at McDonald’s. Immigration has my records. What if they come to get me?”
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Teachers want to help Barranco: they’ve written her recommendations, given her tips for filling out paperwork, and even offered to introduce her to admissions officers. But in the labyrinthine system of scholarships, aid and work-study programs, DACA students occupy a gray area: they have Social Security numbers but can’t get federal assistance, which means it’s difficult to figure out which scholarships they’re eligible for and where they’d have to shoulder the full burden. Even some administrators at Lorain Community College don’t know whether DACA students are eligible for local tuition pricing. “Having to teach kids about all of the opportunities available to them but realizing that some of them might not have the same opportunities, it’s really frustrating,” says Roxanne Ocasio, who teaches Barranco’s college-readiness class. “I sometimes sit in my office and cry.”
Immigration advocates say that even though DACA recipients can’t receive federal aid, the program has made it much easier to get a college education. Sixteen states allow DACA students to pay in-state tuition at state universities; major scholarship funds like TheDream.us help Dreamers foot the tab for tuition (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently donated $33 million), and DACA allows students to work jobs and earn money. According to a University of California study in collaboration with the immigrant-advocacy group United We Dream and the left-leaning Center for American Progress, 45% of DACA recipients are in school, and nearly three-quarters of those are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of the group that isn’t currently in school, many have already graduated. “Before DACA, we didn’t have that financial support, and we weren’t able to work to put ourselves through school,” says Bruna Bouhid of United We Dream. “Without DACA, we’re back to square one.”
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After school, Barranco walks almost a mile to the McDonald’s where she works. It takes her about 25 minutes, which is better than her walk to her old job at a diner, which took two hours round-trip. She was hired at McDonald’s in November, and she spends her shift making French fries and handing out burgers and sodas through the drive-through window. Her smile at the customers is genuine: she likes her gray uniform, she likes the people she works with, and she likes the $8.15 an hour she makes. She’s saving up to buy a car.
Most Dreamers work. About 90% of DACA recipients are employed, according to the 2017 University of California study; 69% said the program’s work permit helped them find a job with better pay. About 8% of DACA recipients over 25 say they’ve started their own businesses, which outpaces the rate of entrepreneurship among Americans overall. Tom K. Wong, an associate professor at the University of California San Diego who has been studying Dreamers since 2012 and co-authored the study, says that, overall, DACA has been “an integration success story.”
The best parts of Barranco’s job, she says, are when she’s called on to translate for a customer who speaks only Spanish. “I know what it’s like to be new somewhere, to not speak English, to not see a friendly face,” she says. “They need help, and I like that I’m able to help them, even if it’s just at a fast-food restaurant.”
[ … ]
One morning in late February, Barranco walked home from school and found a letter on her kitchen table informing her that she had been accepted to Lorain County Community College. The first thing she felt was relief. The second was a question: How would she pay tuition? Admissions officers asked Barranco for proof of her DACA status; when she showed them her work permit and Social Security card, they said that wasn’t enough. A school administrator told TIME that DACA recipients were eligible for in-county tuition and that Barranco would be eligible for any tuition breaks she deserves based on her GPA.
But the morning after that conversation, administrators called Barranco again, asking for proof of her DACA status. A few days later, they asked for more forms, and asked her to fill out the application through FAFSA. Barranco is scared of using FAFSA, even though it will allow her to get financial aid. “I don’t want to risk myself,” she says. “Maybe the government will think I’m taking their money.”
The March 5 deadline for addressing DACA came and went without a legislative solution. Barranco is no closer to certainty. She was supposed to apply to renew her DACA status in mid-February, but the case worker who was helping her with her application had gotten sick. “I got worried, because we’re wasting time!” she says. “What if I’m too late to reapply again?”
And so life goes on. Her appointment was rescheduled. Congress keeps bickering. Barranco plods forward, one tentative step after another, toward what she hopes will be her American future.