Although the latest federal ruling on DACA does not affect enrolled recipients, many of them are still frustrated by the program’s instability.
“Every time this program is challenged, we feel that they are playing with us,” said Juan Antonio Garcia. “I would like for this administration to give us a residency and a path to citizenship, so we can help our community because we contribute to the economy.”
The 34-year-old Des Moines man arrived in the United States from Mexico when he was 14 years old and became a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient in 2012.
The latest upheaval with DACA came when US District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Texas ruled on July 16 that DACA was unlawful.
Essentially, Hansen blocked the Biden Administration from accepting new applicants for this program.
Since President Barack Obama introduced this program in 2012—via executive order—more than 600,000 young immigrants have been protected from deportation, including Garcia, who is raising three children here.
DACA recipients are able to work legally and pay taxes.
The Center for American Progress estimates that DACA recipients pay $5.6 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes annually. In Iowa, there are 2,420 DACA recipients and they pay $13.8 million in federal taxes and $11.1 million in state and local taxes.
“I am just mainly frustrated that politicians keep using us as hostages for their political gain,” said Yazmin Gamez a 30-year-old DACA recipient from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Gamez is a rancher and community advocate who doesn’t understand why people in her position are constantly in limbo.
“All we want is to give back to this country. I am not asking for handouts, but for the government to stop getting in my way,” she said. “What else do we have to prove? We have had DACA for nine years, in which time frame we have had no room for any errors or we risk losing our status. What else do the voting citizens want from us to help pressure Capitol Hill to stop using us as a pawn?”
Although the program wasn’t ideal, it was a good start for many of these young adults, who in many cases, have never set foot in their countries of origin since their arrival in the states.
DACA has been constantly challenged since its inception and has survived several court rulings in the past. This most recent ruling won’t impact current DACA recipients, it will prevent the approval of at least 50,000 new applicants that were slated to be approved.
The uncertainty of DACA is something Maricela Lozano of Des Moines worries about. The 26-year-old was born in Mexico and brought to the United States before she turned 1. She became a DACA recipient in 2012.
“When DACA came out, I was super excited for the opportunity, but I was very nervous to give my information to USCIS,” Lozano said referencing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“With the last ruling against the program I feel sad and afraid, but also I think I have come a long way and I am not giving up right now. We are here for a reason and not trying to live off of the government, we just want an opportunity to grow and be good people.”
Jody Mashek, Legal Services Co-Director of Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, said Judge Hanen’s ruling, while incredibly frustrating, was not entirely unexpected given that he has previously sided with Republicans on the issue of DACA.
“It reaffirms, once again, that Congress needs to act and pass legislation that will protect Dreamers and other immigrants by providing a path to permanent status that will allow them to live and remain in the country, the US, without the fear of losing their temporary immigration status and/or deportation,” Mashek said.
“The decision likely feels like nothing new to those who already have DACA because the past four years have been a roller coaster for the DACA program, with multiple court decisions, and have inflicted enormous turmoil and stress on DACA recipients.”
Uncertainty aside, DACA recipients are appreciative of the program and what it has enabled them to accomplish.
“Thanks to this program, I have had great job opportunities and I was able to get my degree,” Lozano said. “If they would give us the opportunity of becoming a citizen, I would do it in a heartbeat. I just purchased my home, and I am the first in my family to own a home.”
By Claudia Thrane