First, there were Dreamers. Then Dreamers became doers because of a program that allowed them very limited benefits while living in the states. That program is DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and was announced to end in March of this year if Congress doesn’t agree on a solution.
With upwards of 690,000 people enrolled in DACA, those same people anxiously wait to see what happens to them in March as their fate is decided.
Gissel Torres is one of those people. Brought on a tourist visa to the states by her parents at six months, they were ready to build a house and start raising their family. A very similar dream to what other immigrants envisioned once they reached American soil.
The choice of where to go once they got here was simple: her mother’s grandfather had been contracted with a forest company to work here six months out of the year, though his family remained in Mexico.
At age five, her tourist visa expired, and they went back to Mexico to renew it. Until the age of fifteen, she was legally in the country.
Gissel learned English with her classmates.
Her Hispanic heritage was the least of their worries, until at 16 she was reminded that she was not a citizen. With everyone around her getting a driver’s license, it was difficult to be without one.
That’s when Obama stepped in. Torres’ senior year of high school, DACA was passed. The act allowed her to have a social security card, license, and eligibility to work. A way to citizenship was still distant, but now there was protection from deportation.
“The possibility that they could take it all away by ending it, I wouldn’t get automatically deported but they would take away everything DACA gave me.” Torres said.
“It only pushes you away to go back to the place you were born, and I would feel like an immigrant there because all of my memories are here. I would have to start from scratch.”
Even though she had everything a person could need to apply, not being a citizen prevented her from doing receiving any aid. Loans weren’t even an option.
Her only options were pay for college out of pocket or not go. Once she graduates, depending on the DACA decision, a loan for a home or a job may even be out of the question because of lack of social security.
“I busted it to get good grades for scholarships, only to get denied because I’m considered a person that’s not supposed to be here,” Torres said. “People think we’re taking their rights from them, but we’re not because we can’t.”
DACA gave people a future. The end of the DACA program means ending a quality life for a great amount of people.
When people don’t have access to education, safety and basic rights, the greater good of the people is in danger. When those people who have grown up here like everyone else, have a clean record but the only difference is their parents decided to bring them here before they had a say so?
“People around you are saying that they don’t belong here, they don’t understand what DACA really is,” Gissel said. “My parents fought so hard, and were treated differently to give me a better future. But will I have an actual future if it gets taken away now?”
Last September, President Trump gave Congress a deadline to find a replacement for Obama era programs that he was taking away. That deadline, March 5, is fast approaching.
If Congress doesn’t make a decision by then, thousands of people will lose their DACA protections week by week. If this happens, it will be detrimental to America as a whole.
There are real dangers that can come about in the current political landscape that can affect people we know and love. Gissel Torres proves that tragic things can happen to normal people if the people in charge make the wrong decisions.