In 2012, the Obama administration introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, protecting all eligible immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation.
“DACA gave me hope,” program recipient Eddie Ramirez told ABC News. “And the biggest thing [DACA] gave me was a Social Security number with employment authorization, which allowed me to work to make money to pay for my schooling.”
Ramirez was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and arrived in the U.S in 1994 at just 1 and a half years old. Ten years ago, in 2012, he received DACA status, ultimately enabling him to pursue his aspirations of becoming a dentist.
DACA students such as Ramirez are ineligible for federal aid, certain scholarships and internships. Limitations placed on DACA recipients drive various corporations and institutions to deny qualified individuals educational and employment opportunities due to their status.
“Not all institutions are friendly toward DACA,” Ramirez said.
During his last year of dental school, the 2017 rescission of DACA went into effect, threatening Ramirez’s citizenship status.
“It was this anxiety of am I going to be able to be a dentist,” Ramirez said. “Am I going to be able to continue practicing dentistry, everything that I went to school for?”
Ramirez is now a practicing dentist in Hillsboro, Oregon, but the future of his reality, and the life he built for himself, hangs in the balance as legislators delay policy reform that impacts his stability.
As of this year, DACA has promised security to a total of 3,467,749 applicants, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Over the past 10 years, DACA has faced many legislative challenges. Congress’ latest response to the demands of DACA recipients was U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling last July outlawing the DACA program and closing the door on all new applicants. The Department of Justice’s appeal to that decision now makes its way to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, immigration reform is stalled in the Senate.
Hundreds of DACA recipients and supporters plan to rally as the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, calling on Congress to guarantee equal opportunity under DACA and the creation of a substantial pathway to citizenship.
One of those recipients is Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of immigrants’ rights advocacy organization United We Dream.
“What we’re seeking is permanent protection for us to be able to live without fear in our homes,” Rosas told ABC News. “To be able to drive to work without the fear of being separated from our families and be able to make plans for the future.”
Rosas met with Vice President Kamala Harris in January to stress the demands for permanent protection. She says that while “we felt heard and understood,” no action was taken to fortify a certain future for recipients.
Thousands of qualified students are vulnerable to deportation. Caught in the crossfire of the remnants of the previous administration, which Rosas described as “vehemently anti-immigrant,” and the efforts of the current administration, the realities of undocumented people remain in limbo.
Although DACA does not provide a pathway to citizenship, the last line of defense in the fight for protection is the anticipated American Dream and Promise Act. If signed into law, the bill is set to provide an official pathway to citizenship by granting permanent resident status for 10 years to qualifying undocumented immigrants.
Uncertainty for the future persists for thousands of families as they remain on standby for the outcome of oral arguments in Congress on July 6.