On the 1-Year Anniversary of Obama's DACA Program, Here are 7 Stories of Change
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Today is the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, “a presidential initiative that grants temporary legal presence to non-criminal undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as youths by their parents. The two-year program allows DACA recipients to apply for a social security number, to legally work in the United States, and to pay taxes. It also protects them from deportation. The program has attracted more than half a million applicants. As of August, 430,236 undocumented youths have been approved.”
ThinkProgress immigration reporter Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, herself a beneficiary of the program, rounded up the stories of seven immigrants whose lives have been changed as a result of the program.
We’ll let her take it from here:
Before DACA, these individuals were largely excluded from pursuing permanent, professional employment in the United States. But since receiving their employment authorization cards, many recipients are able to match their skills and qualifications with careers that they never could have had without legal presence. They are able to travel more freely, with many states issuing driver’s licenses, ID cards, and other fundamental privileges previously denied. And they have increasingly become contributing members of society. These are the stories of seven DACA recipients who are already changing their lives, even as they live with the fear that the change may be temporary.
C.P., 28, was nine-years-old when her parents brought her from Mexico. When she was 12 years old, her mother was detained during a raid. “The trauma of having a family member sent away stays with you,” she says. Before DACA, she was worried that she would be separated from her two-year-old son and “felt so stuck.” But after becoming a DACA beneficiary, C.P. was excited to start working as a medical genetics technician. Her temporary legal presence has given her the ability to “pay more taxes” than she did as a low-wage “overworked, underpaid” worker who worked “nights, weekends, [and] holidays.” She now pays for private health insurance coverage for her family and she has been able to buy a car– two luxuries afforded by legalization that directly boost the economy.
Rafael Lopez, 24, was one year old when he was brought from Mexico. Until he was approved for DACA, Rafael did not have a paying job. Now he works as a paralegal at a law firm. “It just feels really good because now I have some money in my pockets…,” Rafael said. “For a short little while, I forgot how much I wanted some sort of a state ID. I just wanted to be able to drive and not worry about getting stopped.” He plans to become an immigration lawyer and looks to his boss who takes on pro-bono work, as his role model. Before DACA, “my dreams were never set in stone,” Rafael said. “It was always an ‘if’… but now I’m not afraid anymore. I feel confident. [DACA] makes me feel empowered. Things are not as bad and I have something to lean on and that’s my DACA.’”
Thelma Monarrez with her family
Thelma Monarrez, 25, was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was two-years-old. She works as a legal assistant where “having my own office was a dream come true.” Her legal presence provides her with the opportunity to volunteer at a battered woman’s program, which she previously could not do because she would not have passed a background check. “I can now drive without fear… and take family vacations which I’ve always wanted,” Thelma says. “Basically, my life is a little more ‘normal’…I feel like I do belong somewhere.” DACA has also provided Thelma with a chance to rent in apartment complexes without “having to put a huge deposit down because I have no social security number.” It also gives her a kind of stability that if she lost her job “I can easily look for another [one], which was not so easy before.”