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DACA uncertainty creates stress for some students

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

An upcoming appeals court case has the potential to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program was created to provide temporary protection and work permits for undocumented immigrants and has over 100,000 recipients in Texas alone.

Maricielo Huaman, a finance senior at UH, is a DACA recipient and spoke at length about how impactful the program has been for her. 

“It’s been amazing. Because of the program, I got a job, I’m able to go to school, and I even got some help with financial aid and scholarships,” Huaman said. “It was kind of hard for me to get scholarships because most of them require you to be a citizen, but DACA helped a lot.”

Huaman has been a DACA recipient for seven years and says it’s been key to her success so far, even allowing her to get her driver’s license as an undocumented immigrant. She said that she needs the program to stay intact for her future and expressed concern that it might close.

“If DACA ends, I don’t know what I’ll do,” Huaman said. “My status expires soon, and if I don’t get it renewed, I won’t be able to start my job in August.” 

Due to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, the DACA program has already had to cancel 93,000 first-time applications. According to some experts, if the appeals court officially strikes DACA down, the effect could be wide-reaching.

“The end of DACA would be devastating to those who have DACA in the United States,” said associate professor of Hispanic studies Christina Sisk. “Immigrant youth need documentation to transition to adulthood, and DACA is a partial solution to the obstacles they face.”

In recent years, DACA has come under multiple legal challenges, including an initial attempt to reject new applicants during the Trump administration. The Supreme Court overturned this, but the constant tension can be overwhelming for applicants like Huaman.

“They keep playing with our emotions every time DACA is in the news,” Huaman said. “It’s scary because we don’t really know what’s going to happen. It could be here for a few more years or gone the next day.” 

Critics of DACA have claimed that the program is not compliant with the rule of law since President  Joe Biden reimplemented it via executive order rather than through Congress. Others argue that the program unfairly rewards those that broke the law by crossing the border. 

Huaman, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lima, Peru, firmly rejected these assertions.

“I was just three years old when I came here,” Huaman said. “I didn’t know I was breaking the law. I’ve never had any criminal record. I always try to stay in school, do my work, and finish college, because that’s why my parents brought me here.” 

For Huaman, advocating for the program’s continuation goes beyond her personal goals. Her older brother was a DACA recipient, and though her younger sister was born in the U.S., she believes the program ending would affect more than just recipients.

“It’s not just the recipients that this matters to. People who are born here care about it too. Their husbands and wives rely on the program. It affects everyone.” Huaman said.

DACA enjoys support among many Americans, with polls showing 78 percent support amongst registered voters. The program seems to be successful in helping immigrants transition to adulthood, according to a Harvard study.

Despite this, the program’s status is dubious, and many recipients are prepared for the worst. According to Huaman, there is only one answer as to how to move forward.

“People keep making promises, but we’ve been in this for over a decade and haven’t seen any change. We have to keep fighting,” Huaman said.

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