Yakquelin Garduno ’21, Staff Writer

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was created under the Obama administration to offer immigrant youth an opportunity to succeed in the United States. It offers recipients a social security card and a work permit on a renewable two-year basis. More importantly, it gives dreamers – as they have aptly been named─ the chance to attend college. A staple of the American dream, college promises a productive future in the United States, an opportunity to build roots and establish an identity as a member of society.

However, the Trump administration has jeopardized the survival of DACA and threatened the security of DACA students. As it was created, DACA students can be legally barred from receiving in-state tuition in higher education, even in the state they reside. In fact, many states refuse to admit undocumented students into community and public colleges. Dreamers do not receive federal aid and were prohibited from receiving COVID-19 relief funds under Trump. It is incredibly stressful to successfully navigate school and work in a country that seems to condemn immigrant ascension. Lizeth Mercado, a sophomore studying Administration of Justice at Delaware County Community College (DCCC), says Trump “put more obstacles in our way than we already had.” Her dream of joining the military was crushed, as the recruitment program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), which allowed the entry of DACA holders into the military, was closed indefinitely by the Trump Administration.

Diana Galan, freshman student at West Chester University studying Physical Therapy, also feels discouraged. She says, “Without DACA I will not be able to work as a licensed Physical Therapist, it scares me. I pray that DACA is not taken away and that I, and many other dreamers, can pursue our dream careers.” The Trump administration ended DACA in early 2018, barring new applicants. While dreamers can continue to renew their status, thousands of immigrant kids who were unable to meet the cutoff or were younger than the required age of fifteen, are unable to work legally or get a driver’s license, both of which aid in easing the financial burden of pursuing a college education. Such was the case for Edwin Valasco, junior at West Chester University studying marketing, whose sister was unable to apply. He understands the value and necessity of DACA, and dispiritedly asserts, “You really never know what you have until it’s gone.”

Source: NBC News

Dreamers saw the 2020 presidential election as a turning point in the desperation created by Trump. Unfortunately, DACA students are disenfranchised, and have no voice in electing policy makers. In one of the most critical elections for DACA, nearly 800,000 dreamers were unable to vote. However, Joe Biden’s landslide victory has strengthened dreamers’ morale and hope for a permanent solution. Valasco says, “My hopes are to become a citizen under president elect Joe Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris.” Nevertheless, Mercado approaches Biden’s win with cautious optimism, “He’s given me hope again, but I’m afraid to hope. They have made a lot of promises, but will they keep them?”

DACA students reiterate the importance of college as the first step in ensuring generational success. Mercado believes, “Any progress we make isn’t really for us, it’s for the next generation.” She hopes to see Biden enact a decisive, long-lasting policy for DACA recipients. Valasco shares the same belief: “We’re making a change for uncountable generations to come. Our first steps can and will lead others behind us, or that are looking up to us, into a better path than the one we have been placed on.”

They hope to educate others about DACA and prove Mercado’s claim that “We’re as American as it gets.” She asserts that, “We don’t know anything outside of this. This is our home.” A majority of DACA holders were brought to the United States as children and have been forced to juggle the ramifications of their parents’ decisions. But Valasco claims dreamers are not asking for a lot, “We want to give back to society that is all.” Similarly, Galan believes DACA gives dreamers an “opportunity to pursue their dream careers and give themselves, their families, and this country a better future.”

The future of DACA hangs in the balance, and dreamers look on in hopeful suspense as Biden prepares to take office. They hope to prevent the dissolution of DACA and call for stability and a pathway to citizenship for thousands of dreamers eager to feel accepted and to see their dreams realized.