Within the next month, there will be a new policy regarding undocumented students protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
An executive order was leaked proposing to end DACA, leaving many young immigrants in a state of uncertainty.
In New York, DACA provides 47,000 unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 a great deal of stability, allowing them to attend university, be granted working papers, and be exempt from deportation.
Suffolk County Community College student Willy Flores is one of over 7,000 undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA in the county. He arrived in America as a child when his family fled the Guatemalan Civil War, and DACA “has given me opportunity to work so I can go to school and educate myself,” Flores said. “School is a lot easier when I don’t have to worry about being deported over a simple traffic stop.”
A professor at the college, Cynthia Eaton, explains that “Trump’s unpredictability, temperament, and past statements about immigrants have caused students to have a generalized anxiety.”
“Eliminating DACA either by fire (ending it) or by ice (letting is expire) would be a tragic humanitarian turn of events,” Michael Olivas, professor of law at the University of Houston-Downton, said. “It is a demonstrably successful program, which has stopped the possible-deportation-clock for over three-quarters of a million students. We have all benefited from this program.”
The institution has more than 500 undocumented students and Olivas does not see a benefit to the disposing of DACA.
But not everybody shares the same view. The Federation for Immigration Reform aims to reduce the number of immigrants coming into the U.S. Ira Mehlman, the organization’s Media Director, described what would happen to undocumented students if DACA no longer existed.
“They’ll revert back to the status before President Obama,” Mehlman said. “It is considerably questionable whether or not he had the authority to do this in the first place.”
If DACA were repealed, education is among one of the last worries for undocumented students. It would become even more of a struggle for undocumented students to work and pay for school.
“They lose any kind of status that they gained under DACA and essentially they become targets for deportation,” Aleka Filindra, an associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said.
To beneficiaries of the program like Dale St. Marthe, a computer science major at CUNY York College, that security isn’t taken for granted.
“Ending DACA would be like opening a pothole right under me,” St. Marthe said. “I would have to stop literally in the middle of my college career, and revert back to what I feel is an empty state of limbo in the U.S.”
A number of advocacy groups have already begun speaking out in opposition to Trump possibly repealing DACA. Among them is the Long Island Immigrant Student Advocates, where founder Osman Caneles describes the impact DACA has on students.
“DACA gave these students hope, and allows them to dream, and work for their dreams,” Caneles said.
St. Marthe is among those grateful for the opportunity to work toward his dreams. “Any shortcomings when it comes to jobs, education and career, I have the privilege of saying that it’s my fault, and not that I simply am unable to.”