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The Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2017 immediately set up a protracted legal battle. With the United States Supreme Court set to decide on the fate of the program later this year, legal experts are wrestling with the legacy of DACA and how much good it really accomplished.
DACA allows immigrant children who arrived without documentation to remain in the country legally. The program also provides a pathway to legal work, but it requires DACA recipients, commonly referred to as Dreamers, to reapply every two years.
For Dreamers, the security of knowing they’re safe from deportation has unequivocally been a good thing. Now, though, their legal status in the country has been thrown into uncertainty as the Trump administration seeks to end DACA protections.
Across emails and phone calls, The Millennial Source spoke with a 36-year-old man who previously had been protected by the DACA program. That man, Alberto, who migrated to the US from Guatemala over two decades ago, is now married and has children in the US. He confessed to feeling “afraid and concerned” as his current legal status remains in limbo.
Below are the words of a Dreamer whose life could be forever altered by the Supreme Court’s decision on DACA. As Alberto is not a native English speaker, he gave us permission to edit his answers to provide greater clarity. His original wording has been preserved wherever possible.
Alberto’s experience with DACA
What has been your experience with DACA? Has it been good or bad?
“As a responsible person, striving to do the right thing, I have always [investigated] my options to become legal. Unfortunately, I initially consulted with an attorney that did not find an option for me at the time. But in 2017, I came to know Rambana and Ricci.
“Rambana and Ricci took the time to listen to my story and the time to look into my options to become legal. I am blessed to be a DACA recipient. DACA is the key to the door to reach my dreams and to reach my full potential.”
The law firm of attorneys Neil St. John Rambana and Elizabeth Ricci bills itself as “A personalized, full service, multi-lingual immigration law practice focusing on complex litigation and administrative immigration issues.”
Ricci initially put The Millennial Source in contact with Alberto.
Are you concerned that DACA will be terminated? How would you be personally affected?
“I am greatly concerned. It would leave me illegal and unable to achieve my dream.”
How are you feeling these days?
“Afraid and concerned. I did feel more comfortable after [my lawyers] helped me renew in 2018. But in December 2019, the government terminated my DACA status. I submitted my renewal application on April 14, 2020.”
Alberto is still waiting to hear back with no sense of how long the process could take.
What are your views/feelings on the Trump administration? Are they different from the views/feelings you had about the Obama administration?
“My view on the Trump administration is [a feeling of] concern with relation to the DACA program, because many [people who arrived as] teenagers depend and benefit from the DACA program to make our dreams come true and achieve our full potential. At this moment, I am afraid [for] my future with DACA.
“The Obama administration was the best for finding benefits to empower teenagers to reach our full potential. The DACA program allows us to be productive and support our great United States.”
Alberto’s Life in the United States
What is the hardest part of living in the US for you? What is the best part of your life in the US?
“The hardest part is [I am] unable to live in the freedom of this great nation, to make my dreams and goals a reality. Also, the inability to travel, to be with my parents while they were ill and to attend my parents’ funerals.”
Alberto’s mother died in 2002, while his father died in 2007. Both were still living in Guatemala.
Alberto was born in Guatemala but immigrated to the US in 1999 at the age of 14. His uncle brought him to the US to help his parents, as his mother was ill at the time and his father was unable to afford the medical expenses.
“The best part is I am a family man. I am blessed with a beautiful wife, celebrating 21 years knowing each other, married 18 years in October. We are blessed with three children.”
Alberto’s wife has been in the US since she was 10, but Alberto explained that she has been unable to apply for DACA.
How many family members do you have in the US?
“My parents had previous marriages [before they married], with their spouses passing away. Both of them were left with four children each to [raise]. Destiny brought them together, and they had two children of their own, which is me and my sister. In total, we are ten brothers and sisters. Six of us are in the US, as well as most of my [extended] family of aunts, uncles and cousins.”
Guatemalans in the US
In 2017, the Pew Research Center (PRC) reported that Guatemala was one of three countries (along with El Salvador and Honduras) whose number of immigrants to the US was increasing.
By contrast, the number of immigrants from Mexico has been declining since the Great Recession, though Mexico’s numbers still surpass the total from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – three countries known collectively as the “Northern Triangle.”
In 2014, 115,000 immigrants arrived in the US from the Northern Triangle, nearly double the number that had arrived just three years earlier. The number of immigrants from Mexico in 2014 was 165,000, down 10,000 from 2011.
According to the PRC, the possible reasons for this increase from the Northern Triangle include “high homicide rates, gang activity and other violence at home,” but also “economic opportunity and a chance to join relatives already in the country.”
According to the 2010 census, there were approximately 1.1 million Hispanics of Guatemalan origin living in the US at the time. While the 2020 census has not been completed yet, the most recent estimate by the US Census Bureau puts that number at over 1.5 million, or less than half a percent, .457%, of the current total US population of 328.2 million.
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