Guest editorial: DACA recipient says Dreamers are starting to lose faith in a solution
April 2, 2018
As a Dreamer who came to Utah from Mexico when I was 13 years old, I have long considered America my home. Even so, for many years, my future here was uncertain. As an undocumented immigrant, I could not work or drive legally. The threat of deportation loomed. But that changed in 2012 with the creation of DACA — a governmental program that allowed young undocumented immigrants like myself to get a Social Security number, a driver's license, and a legal job. With DACA, I became a pre-school teacher at Holy Cross Ministries in Park City and now manage the Park City Afterschool Program in collaboration with the Park City School District. I provide a safe and enriching environment for the 200 children under my care, and help to give their hard-working parents peace of mind.
But last September, I was crushed to learn that President Trump was ending DACA. I hoped Congress would find a legislative solution, but the original March 5th deadline to save the program came and went and there is still uncertainty. Now, the new massive government budget doesn't include a provision for Dreamers.
My personal DACA authorization won't end immediately which means I can continue to support myself and my 5-year-old daughter for at least one more year. But after that, what will happen to us? I have plans to further my career and continue to serve this community, but how can I pursue those dreams, knowing that I could soon be arrested and deported? If I am forced to leave, my daughter — an American citizen — will also have to leave the country of her birth. I have many DACA friends who are grappling with these same questions. Many have dropped out of school altogether so they can work as much as they can while they still have the right.
We should not let the country's 800,000 DACA recipients — including 13,600 in Utah — languish in uncertainty. Dreamers have personal and professional goals. We have families to support and mortgages to pay. Our bills don't stop arriving, just because Congress doesn't act. Furthermore, all of this is harmful to the economy. In Utah, more than 91 percent of Dreamers are employed and pay taxes, according to New American Economy; nationally, the vast majority have graduated from high school and taken at least one college course. Research has shown they are poised help alleviate the looming national doctor shortage and offer much needed skills in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Both Democrats and Republicans want to protect Dreamers like myself. A new poll released this month by New American Economy and TargetPoint Consulting shows that Republicans and conservatives overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship in exchange for greater border security. Even 86 percent of Trump's base would support such legislation. So why doesn't Congress act?
We are starting to lose faith in a solution. I can't even explain how good it felt the day I received my DACA authorization six years ago. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged to this society and was free to give back to my country. I suddenly had the same opportunities as my friends and co-workers. I want to feel that freedom again and move forward with creating a secure future for myself and my family. In the meantime, the nation's 1.3 million DACA-eligible immigrants are hoping that Congress doesn't forget about us.
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Karina Palestina is an after-school program coordinator for Holy Cross Ministries in Park City.
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