DACA Offers Opportunities to Undocumented Student

Photo By Noemi Mosqueda / el Don
Photo By Noemi Mosqueda / el Don
Photo By Noemi Mosqueda / el Don

By Noemi Mosqueda

In a little house surrounded by dirt roads and lots of animals, Itzel Luna thought she had it all — a small, but beautiful, home in Tzitzingareo Michoacán, Mexico, a loving family and a school just around the corner where friends waited for her every morning before class.

“I had a beautiful life with lots of friends. Little did I know one car ride was going to change my life forever, “she said

When she was 8 years old, an uncle whom she knew well from his visits back in Michoacán took Luna to Tijuana, the Baja border town that connects Mexico to the United States.

She had been on car rides with him before, but this time was different. She was told to gather her belonging and go with him. Her mom would be waiting for her in their new home.

Luna and her uncle waited in a never-ending line surrounded by armed men that her uncle described as la migra (a slang term for U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers). He used his daughter’s legal documents to get Luna across the border. She remembers that the wait was so long she fell asleep. When she woke up and looked out the window everything was different.

Luna remembers asking her uncle: “Where are we?”

“Your new home,” he replied.

Luna started fourth grade at an elementary school in Placentia. Since she didn’t speak English, the counselors decided it was best for her to enter a bilingual class until she was more familiar with the language. Not only were the subjects different but also learning a new language in a new country was a struggle.

Soon, Luna began making excuses to stay home, telling her mother her stomach hurt, or that she had headaches. She hated school. She begged her mom to go back to Mexico, where she could go to school and actually know what the teachers were talking about, but her mom’s only response was, “We are here for a better life.”

After a few years and a lot of hard work and determination, Luna grew to like living in the United States. She met lots of friends and spoke perfect English. When she started high school, her only goal, like many high school students, was to graduate and go on to a four-year college.

However, that dream seemed nearly impossible considering her undocumented status and the amount of money that tuition costs as an out-of-state student.     

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She started her studies at Santiago Canyon College and that’s when she heard about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Luna is one of about 1 million undocumented students who have been approved for deferred action as of 2015, according to USCIS.

DACA is a federal program enacted in 2012 that allows children who entered the country illegally to pursue a higher education and obtain a job. Started in 2012 under the Obama administration, the program grants those who qualify a two-year work permit and a social security number.

Although this program doesn’t guarantee a pathway to citizenship, it helps undocumented students obtain a degree, exercise their profession and even get a drivers license.

However, DACA is going to be put to the test with this November election. The Democratic Party supports the bill, but the Republican Party plans on ending it.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said that DACA gives an unfair advantage over U.S citizens.

“I want dreamers to come from the United States. I want people in the United States that have children, I want them to have dreams also,” he said at a press conference.

DACA’s possible elimination is a scary scenario for Luna, who is now attending Cal State Fullerton.

“I am still trying to figure everything out. I have a job, I go to school but I am always in fear that this is all going to come to an end,” she said.

Immigration Attorney Maria De La Luz Hernandez, who serves Orange and Los Angeles County, has helped hundreds of students apply for DACA.

“The presidential election will certainly impact Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival as well as all future immigration reforms. Unfortunately, they will not only change but will likely be eliminated completely,” Hernandez said.

Luna worries about how hard life will become if DACA is ended.   “I am going to go from having it all, to being back in the shadows,” she said.

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