These “Dreamers,” immigrants who arrived on U.S. soil before they were 16, have benefited from the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program since it was created five years ago, but President Donald Trump’s rescinding of the program late last year left its 790,000 recipients uncertain about their future.
The government shut down and reopened over the weekend with a promise instead of a solution, and left local Dreamers in the same limbo they’ve been stuck in since February.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and we have this problem we’re in right now, if nothing is resolved here soon I’ll be subject to deportation,” said Randy Huerta, a mechanical engineering student who arrived in the country from Mexico when he was a year old. “We want to get a legislative solution to this problem soon because it takes a while for these programs to be reinstated.”
When the shutdown ended Monday with a temporary stopgap spending measure, legislation to bar deportation efforts on Dreamers was left unaddressed with reassurances that Congress will work something out in the coming weeks.
Huerta has been to several marches in Washington, D.C., through his activism with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and said he hopes to make another trip in the coming weeks. He’s been active in planning and attending vigils locally and has worked to contact local legislators, and has met with Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, to discuss the issue.
He said despite all the frustrations that have come with federal immigration talks, he said he still feels optimistic.
“It’s a frustrating aspect of it, we’ve seen it in the past, the Senate majority leaders promise something and it doesn’t come through,” he said. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work, I’d like to think the hard work will pay off here soon.”
Jessica Miranda, another Dreamer and a sophomore at East Tennessee State University, said that she just takes her life day by day, but that the uncertainty of her future is never far from her mind. Miranda was born in Mexico City, and her father immigrated to the U.S. when she was a baby. She, her mother and her three older sisters arrived in Mount Airy, North Carolina, when Miranda was 5 years old, and she moved to Johnson City to begin studying at ETSU.
Like many Dreamers, Miranda said she doesn’t remember anything about her birth country.
“If I get deported where am I going to go?” she wondered. “I don’t remember anything from there. People tell me to go home, but this is my home. Mexico is where I was born, but this is where I was raised.”
Miranda does have some family back in Mexico, but she said it’s hard to be close to them since she can never go to see them. Even as a DACA recipient, she could only visit Mexico if a family member is seriously ill, and even that is a separate application process that takes time and $500 without a guaranteed approval.
For now, Miranda said she and her family just keep up with the news and try to keep fear at bay. She wakes up, goes to class and just takes life day by day.
“I don’t like living thinking, ‘What if tomorrow I don’t have my DACA?’ I just have to keep on going.
“I’m not optimistic, but I’m not scared.”
Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.