UTRGV mass communication senior Merary De La Fuente will graduate in Spring 2018. However, De La Fuente fears she will not be able to get a job without the help of the DACA program.
“I’m graduating this May,” she said. “That makes me really proud. I’m really excited, but without DACA, I can’t get a job. So, my whole career, my degree, it’s not hat it’s for nothing, but, basically, without DACA, I can’t work, even though I do have a career, even though I am educated.”
Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an executive order by then-President Barack Obama that protected nearly 800,000 people.
DACA provides young people who were brought to the United States as children with temporary protection from deportation if they can demonstrate that they meet several criteria, according to whitehouse.gov.
However, Trump’s change on DACA gives Congress six months to consider appropriate legislative solutions.
Approved applications for advance parole for DACA recipients will generally be honored, but new applications will not be approved, according to whitehouse.gov.
At UTRGV, about 900 DREAMers are enrolled.
DREAMers are individuals who meet the general requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1403, also known as the Texas DREAM Act, which extends in-state tuition and grants eligibility to non-citizen residents of the state, according to forabettertexas.org.
De La Fuente was born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, but has lived in Alamo since she was 5.
She never felt any different from other children growing up. It wasn’t until high school when she noticed her friends were getting their licenses, and realized she couldn’t.
De La Fuente said that is when she started feeling how things were different for her and realized she may have a more difficult time than other students.
“Once I hit senior year in high school, the whole process of getting to college was extremely difficult,” she said. “I kind of felt alone in some ways, but through help and support of people who really cared about me, I am here right now.”
Last Wednesday, 15 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York challenging Trump’s decision to end DACA.
The suit alleges the Trump administration “violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution by discriminating against DREAMers of Mexican origin, who make up 78 percent of DACA recipients; violated Due Process rights; and harmed States’ residents, institutions, and economies.”
UT System Chancellor William McRaven issued a statement the same day the DACA announcement was made, saying he and the UT System will follow the law but believe DACA students’ opportunities should be upheld and continued.
“You can be certain of our support as you continue to pursue your dreams–the American dream–to obtain an education and build a better future for you and your families,” McRaven said in his statement. “As UT adheres to federal and state laws regarding immigration, rest assured our campuses will remain places where you can safely study as Congress takes up this issue.”
UTRGV President Guy Bailey echoed the statement made by the chancellor and provided resources the university offers for students who may be uncertain.
“I want to reaffirm that each student, staff and faculty member who makes up our UTRGV community is an important part of our university family,” Bailey said in an email sent to the campus community last Tuesday. “Regardless of place of birth or citizenship, each one of us contributes an important voice to our diverse campus.”
UTRGV will host information forums regarding the DACA announcement for campus community members.
In Brownsville, the forum will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Sabal Hall 2.110A. On the Edinburg campus, the forum will begin at the same time Wednesday in ELABN 101.
In an interview with The Rider last Wednesday, Student Success Vice President Kristin Croyle and Rebecca Gadson, associate vice president for Student Life and dean of students, said the end of DACA will not affect any students’ admission or financial aid status.
Gadson said UTRGV offers help to students who may be scared or want to talk to someone.
“There is free and confidential counseling services available through our counseling center,” she said.
Gadson also mentioned UTRGV offers the Vaqueros Crisis Line, which is a 24/7 confidential helpline for students experiencing an emotional crisis.
A trained counselor will be available to provide assistance. The number for the crisis line is 665-5555.
Croyle said students need to remember that the university does not and will not share student educational records, which include citizenship and immigration records, with outside authorities without the student’s consent.
“This is incredibly stressful for students who were affected,” Croyle said. “It’s like having a rug pulled out from under them and putting their future, you know, throwing it up in the air. But, I firmly believe that there’s a path forward. We may not know exactly what the path is right now, but I firmly believe there’s a path forward.”
She said students should not lose sight of their dreams because UTRGV is here to help them meet their goals.
Jaime Diez, an immigration attorney in Brownsville, told The Rider the change to DACA created different situations for its recipients.
The first situation is people who already filed for an application and who have not been approved.
“The decision, according to immigration, those applications will be considered and they will be decided based on the merits of each application,” Diez said. “So, that means that if they have filed an application before Sept. 5, they were able to qualify because they can show that they were here since June of 2007. … They will be able to get their permits for a period of two years.”
Diez said the second situation are people whose permits are going to expire before March 5, 2018.
“Those are the ones that are going to be able to renew their permits,” he said. “But they need to be careful because the dates that they need to file for renewing those permits is before Oct. 5. … So, you really have to do it right now. Because, otherwise, you will not be able to renew that permit.”
Additionally, DACA recipients whose permit expires on March 6, 2018, will not be able to renew their permits or work, Diez said.
“Our final group is the people that have not applied,” he said. “For example, there is a person that came over to see me yesterday, and he doesn’t turn 15 until next month, which will be Oct. 1. So, today he could not apply, because in order to apply you need to be 15 years or above. So, unfortunately, because this decision by the president to cancel the program, the way that they that did it, he’s not going to be able to apply because he has never applied.”
Mark Kaswan, a UTRGV political science professor, said campus community members can help with the DACA situation by reaching out to their U.S. representatives.
In Edinburg, campus community members should reach out to District 15 U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas). In Brownsville, District 34 U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) is the person to contact, Kaswan said.
Vela and Gonzalez issued statements that showed their support for DREAMers.
“Ending DACA undercuts the stability, hope, and opportunities for nearly 800,000 DREAMers who arrived in America at a young age, and have contributed positively to our economy,” Gonzalez said. “I urge the president to rethink this misguided decision and call on my colleagues in Congress to defend the DACA program.”
Vela said Trump chose to follow “the dictates of the radical racist wing in his administration” when he made the decision to rescind DACA.
Kaswan told The Rider the end of DACA can result in an economic “disaster” for the Rio Grande Valley. He said people will not feel comfortable living in the Valley, which will cause them to leave. This will mean that they will not buy Valley products, use local services, pay property taxes, build things or create businesses.
Kaswan added that DACA, even though it limited its recipients, helped immigrants contribute to society.
“The ability to get some sort of legal status, even if it was limited, enabled them to be more productive members of the society,” he said. “So, that goes away.”
Kaswan said he encourages students to get registered to vote and raise their voices, in spite of their legal status.
“You don’t have to be a citizen, you don’t have to be here legally,” he said. “Even undocumented students can raise their voices, can articulate themselves to members of Congress. … That’s the most important thing that students can do, is to not be quiet, not to just wait and see what’s going to happen.”
Croyle and Gadson said all students, regardless of legal status, are welcomed at UTRGV.
“We are here to help,” Gadson said. “If they are looking for a place to ask questions, they can do so without fear by coming to our offices to talk to us.”
De La Fuente said DREAMers should not give up or stop believing. She encourages them to stick together and help each other out.
“Even though right now I feel like I’m stuck, you know, I want to hope and believe that this is all for a purpose and maybe something better is coming,” De La Fuente said. “You never know. I mean, I’m still hoping that somewhere in the future, the immigrants in this country, you know, we’re going to have our chance and maybe even get a pathway to citizenship.”