The nearly-700,000 young people who were brought to the United States illegally during their childhood face a difficult time in their lives as the immigration program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided them permission to live and work in the United States, may come to a halt.
District Judge Andrew Hanen, of the Southern District of Texas, heard arguments from several states that claim that DACA is unconstitutional. Judge Hanen has yet to make a decision on the immigration program’s constitutionality. For now, the request to immediately stop the program is being considered.
DACA, created by former President Barack Obama in 2012, is facing lawsuits regarding the program’s constitutionality. Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia have signed on the lawsuit, arguing that DACA creates additional costs in education, health care and law enforcement, as well as increases competition for jobs. In previous lawsuits, courts from New York, Washington D.C., and California ruled favorably for the program.
Though Judge Hanen’s decision on the program’s constitutionality has yet to be declared, Dr. Irasema Coronado, professor of political science at UTEP, believes that letting DACA survive should not be a question and that the government should allow the DREAMers to continue working and studying in the country.
“It’s the right thing to do for these young people and taking that away from them is a cruel and unusual punishment,” Coronado said.
Coronado has interviewed people in Mexico who have been deported and found that adjusting to life in a different country was extremely difficult, since most DACA recipients are not socially, economically or politically cultured in their parents country of origin. Coronado believes that there must be accommodations for the beneficiaries and emphasized that the creation of DACA was Obama’s boldest step forward in immigration policy.
According to governing calculations of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from the 2016 Census, about 120,000 people in Texas are DACA recipients. In El Paso County, about 9,000 are eligible for the program. Should all authorized workers be removed along with the immigration program, the country’s economy will take a hit. A report by the Center for American Progress found that a mass wave of deportations would cause the U.S. cumulative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to decline by about $4.7 trillion. But more importantly, DREAMers would be negatively impacted.
UTEP graduate Monica Diaz came to the United States when she was 8. Now 22, she recals becoming a DACA beneficiary at the age of 18. DACA helped her acquire a job and was granted a scholarship thanks to the program. Throughout the application process for a job, employers always ask for legal requirements, such as a work permit.
“Wherever I apply for a job, I’m required to show a work permit. If it weren’t for DACA I wouldn’t be able to work,” Diaz said. “If DACA was to get repealed, I don’t know what would happen. I’m the only DACA beneficiary in my family. (The government) knows where I live, where I work, everything. I don’t like to even imagine what would happen.”
Another DACA beneficiary, junior Diego Garcia, has lived in the U.S. for 17 years. Garcia has been a DACA beneficiary for five years and says that he’s very thankful for the program, as it has helped him get a job so that he could pay for school. If DACA gets repealed, Garcia is most worried about what will happen to him, with the uncertainty, at times, becoming too much to bear.
“I would be living in uncertainty,” Garcia said. “Ever since Trump became president, many of his decisions have launched the country into disarray and caused many changes. I think that all these changes have to do with (the administration’s) political agenda. The Trump Administration must not have concrete information about what would happen if they removed the immigrants from the country.”
Sophomore mechanical engineering major Miguel Cuervo, also said that DACA made it easy for him to work and he was able to get a driver’s license.
“My license expires along with my work permit. So, my license would go, my permission to work would go. That might affect my (education],” Cuervo said. “I think it would be wrong to deport and get rid of all the people who are working here (under DACA).”
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at UTEP, Dr. Catie McCorry-Andalis said that the university will still support all students in their education and that Dr. Diana Natalicio, has sent out a DACA statement to all UTEP students for support.
“No matter where a student comes from to us, whether it’s locally, internationally, (UTEP) will continue to support them in their education,” McCorry-Andalis stated.
A website by UTEP’s Dean of Students office, titled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, provides information about the program for students. The website includes information about support and students’ rights.