Diana, a youth leader with immigrant rights group Make the Road New York, writes in a new Medium piece that before she was allowed to work legally, she struggled to balance what part-time jobs she could find and her education. But when she was just 17 years old, “I began thinking I was not meant to be in school, that I was not smart enough so I dropped out of college after my first year.” But, then came the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, implemented by former President Barack Obama in 2012:
When I was 18, I decided to apply and became a DACA recipient. DACA allowed me to go back to school, knowing that I could find a steady job with the hours I needed to concentrate on my grades. I decided to major in Sociology and Human Rights, Although DACA did not allow me to get financial aid (New York State still hasn’t passed the DREAM Act, which would allow students like me to get financial aid), I knew that I know could find a job within my field of study, one that helped me grow intellectually. DACA allowed me to apply for programs and fellowships that all required a social security number — all of the ones that I was not able to access prior to DACA for the lack of a piece of paper.
For the first time in my life, I felt consistency.
I am supposed to walk down the stage and receive my college diploma in two semesters. This has been my one goal for the past 22 years, to finally get my degree. To put the pieces of my father’s broken heart back together and make him proud.
But with Donald Trump now threatening to end DACA, I now wonder if I will ever be able to become the lawyer or professor that I want to be, to continue working and helping youth who felt the way the same way I did while growing up. Something so close feels like it could soon be so far off.
Within the past few days, numerous rumors that the Trump administration would imminently end DACA have left undocumented immigrant communities and their allies living with anxiety and fear. It’s no surprise why a recent Rice University study found that immigrant youth “in particular are at risk for psychological distress and diminished quality of life as a result of the many complex stressors they face,” including the threat of being torn from the only country they know as home.
“Once again,” Diana continued, “I am reminded that when you are undocumented there is no such thing as consistency. That you must remain awake, even when you are asleep.”