With only a few months left to sort out their next move, many DACA recipients had their entire livelihood stripped away. DACA was their only source of income or education. To many, DACA has not only been the only way for these young people to show their true potential, it has allowed them to become integrated with broader society. It provided them a new identity, one out of the shadows of society and into mainstream American life.
The DACA program was implemented by the Obama Administration through executive action after months of pressure from undocumented youth. The DACA program allowed individuals who entered the country as minors to receive reprieve in the form of a valid Social Security Number and an Employment Authorization Document. Through these forms of identification, almost a million DACA-eligible individuals were able to receive driver’s licenses and in-state tuition at local community colleges and universities.
Prior to the implementation of this program, undocumented youth had no remedy for their status. After graduating from high school, many would be stuck in limbo, unable to legally work and unable to pay exorbitant out-of-state tuition without traditional means of financial aid or loans.
Many who question the legality of the program argue that President Obama overreached his executive power. Others simply want DACA recipients to ‘wait in line.’ As the law is currently written, because these immigrants are already in this country, many must leave the country first and then begin the application process. This process could take over ten years.
Today we are a little over a week from the official (March 5) expiration date for the program. Despite several district judges’ decisions on the legality of the program, no new DACA applications can be submitted. This means that potential DACA recipients who will graduate from high school in May will face the same situation many before – limbo and uncertainty of their futures.
This also means that first time applicants or individuals who were too afraid to renew their DACA application due to fear of providing information to government will also be left without status and deportation protection.
To those lucky few who have status for a few months, the future without a permanent solution looks bleak. We have many DACA recipients in school now who just started their education.
Without permanent legislation that would allow for undocumented youth to achieve citizenship, many are left feeling deflated and helpless. Outside of the context of the university, many other DACA recipients are mothers and fathers, who now raise American citizen children. Without the financial security that DACA provides, their families’ lives are in peril.
To make matters worse, Arizona in-state tuition may no longer be issued to undocumented students. In 2007, Proposition 300 forced Arizona universities to charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition. However, after DACA was implemented, the Maricopa Community Colleges District decided that DACA was enough to create “lawful presence” and thus receive instate tuition. The case has now made its way through the court system and is likely to be heard by the Arizona Supreme Court in the next few months.
Despite this difficult period, we are determined to succeed at any cost. We will be able to prevail because our community has done so in the past.
Many of us know what it is like to be in the shadows, working odd jobs for low pay. We also know how to be innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders. We will not let our immigration status define who we are. Despite the fact that the most powerful lawmaking body in the world did not come to a compromise on an issue where over 85 percent of Americans agree – we will be resilient.
We know we will win this fight through the inspiration we find in our families and our parents. The stories from our uncles and aunts who never needed “papers” to succeed inspire us daily. Through their strength we find hope. Through their trailblazing paths and pioneering adventures, we find love. Our future may be uncertain, but our love for our families and communities is not. Despite politicking and bickering, we will continue to live our lives with the courage and strength given to us by those we hold most dear.
This letter to the editor was submitted by Edder Diaz Martinez, a senior journalism student at ASU and DACA recipient.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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