“We are not a game.” Reactions of two dreamers to the latest DACA news
When a judge in Texas declared Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) “illegal” this past July 16, thousands of Dreamers fell in limbo.
The decision blocked immigration authorities from approving new applications for the DACA program and created uncertainty for thousands. A reality that’s not unknown to Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, «we keep revisiting this situation, we are between a yes and a no, I feel like we are being used as a political token.»
Alejandro was born in Mexico and came to this country when he was seven years old. He has DACA status. He renewed it on time, but he sympathizes with the thousands affected by the recent court order and those impacted by the processing backlog.
«The lives of people with DACA are not just about a work permit. It’s about being able to live in this country with dignity and to be able to work with dignity,» explains Flores-Muñoz.
The lack of opportunities and his immigration status motivated Alejandro to explore new options. In 2012 he became an entrepreneur; he now owns a restaurant and a food truck in Denver. He feels fortunate to employ DACA beneficiaries and immigrants from Mexico, Colombia, and El Salvador.
This Dreamer is thankful to have access to information and the support of his community. He believes that’s the only way to find balance in the mix of the unpredictability of DACA, «I don’t know how people without a support system do it… those are the people that really worry me,» says Alejandro.
During 2020, the combination of uncertainty caused by immigration and the pandemic were significant sources of anxiety and depression among Dreamers. Last year, the study Mental Health of Undocumented College Students during the Covid-19 Pandemic highlighted this issue. Among the Dreamers interviewed, 47% met the cutoff for anxiety and 63% for depression.
Javier Diego Jacinto recently graduated from college in San Diego, California. He renewed his DACA last year. But, the stress and uncertainty surrounding the process are all too familiar for him.
«As soon as I heard the news (of the hearing in Texas), I felt devastated, I felt mad. It’s a very lonely process». Javier remembered feeling alone and misunderstood.
«There are various reasons why individuals are not able to process their initial DACA application, and I feel their frustration. I understand them; I was one of them».
When Diego Jacinto first received DACA status, he was able to contribute financially to his family. He enjoyed school. Then the renewal period came, followed by months of anxiety.
During the process, he thought, «am I going to be one of those statistics? Am I going to be able to process DACA in time to renew my job and help out my family?»
Fortunately, he got his DACA renewal approved, a difference from the more than 44,000 Dreamers that still have their renewal applications pending as of the end of March 2021.
Javier says that being under DACA could easily be compared to a yo-yo; «one day we feel like we can do anything and the next day situations like this ruling (referring to the July 16 ruling) puts us back inside our shelves».
At the same time, he has hope in the Biden administration and believes more needs to be done.
«DACA is not enough; we need a passway to citizenship, not only for Dreamers. But also for TPS holders and undocumented individuals in general.»
After the Texas ruling, President Biden said in a statement, «it is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.»
The goal of providing legal status for immigrants — brought to the United States as children — is supported by most Americans. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center study, 74% of Americans support this idea.
Alejandro and Javier trust that Congress and the President can find common ground. Both men believe in the vital role the Dreamers and the Latinx community need to play.
«We should be more aggressive in our efforts. The current administration didn’t make it to DC without the Latino community. We need to use our political weight,» says Alejandro.
Javier recommends that Dreamers find their strength in their allies.
«Acknowledge that this is a frustrating time and your community, your family, your friends, your mentors, your professors, we are all here for you, to support you.»
All those granted DACA before the decision on July 16, 2021, will continue to have DACA. If you currently have DACA, you can request and receive advance parole. USCIS will continue to accept the filing of initial DACA requests and requests for employment authorization. But, USCIS will not grant new DACA requests and requests for employment authorization.
Learn more about DACA news and updates.