Back in the Shadows

With DACA on the block, local recipients are on edge

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivalsthe Obama administration initiative that protected some undocumented immigrants who arrived here as children from deportation and provided them with work permitsin six months. Ostensibly, this gives Congress time to codify the policy into law, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. Instead, the country’s eight hundred thousand DACA recipients remain in a sort of limbo.

The INDY spoke with some local DACA recipients about what this program has meant to them and what they’re thinking now. Here’s some of what they told us.

Reyna Gutierrez, a Raleigh high school junior: “I feel safer with DACA. Without DACA, I had a weight on my shoulder. I felt like, How am I going to be able to go to college and help my parents out? With DACA, I feel like I have a superpower that’s going to help me go through all of this and motivate me and help me show my parents that all they’ve done for me, they’ve done for a reason. … Right now, I’m just waiting to see what our president has to say about this. And either way he goes, if he stops it or if he does anything to it, I’m still going to be out there fighting for it no matter what his decision is.”

Viviana Mateo, a senior at Wake Early College of Health and Sciences: “Me and my grandma would cry about how I would never go to college, because that’s what I had learnedthat it was going to be hard for me because of my status, because we’re not rich. I would always cry to her, and she was like, ‘Don’t worry, God will open doors.” When I got the [DACA] letter, I started crying. It was a big accomplishment, a big relief that I was going to get something. I got in and I started going, and it honestly changed my life. … I’m tired of fighting. I know I’m not going to stop fighting. I feel like I’ve gotten my foot in the door. DACA has given me the chance to go to school. It gave me hope that I can work to pay for college, even if it has to be out-of-state tuition. Now that they could take this away, it’s like, I can’t go to school, I can’t work, what is supposed to become of me?”

Diana Zeleta, a student at Durham Tech: “I just have one year left to finish [her associate’s degree]. Without DACA, I would be stuck. Knowing that you’re making all these plans to create a better future for yourself, and to be in a world where you have no control over what can basically destroy those plans. Students like me are working as hard as we can to get our degrees, get certified, not knowing if we’ll be able to finish that or pursue their career.”

Victoria Bouloubasis and Erica Hellerstein