How is DACA Affecting DREAMers? One Student Speaks Out.
Last week, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) celebrated its first anniversary. The legislation allows an estimated 1.6 million undocumented immigrant youth living in the the U.S. to defer removal actions, and provides a pathway for work authorization.
While DACA doesn't provide a legal status, (or help those who didn't immigrate at a young age) its enactment is probably the most monumental form of immigration reform we will get in the U.S. for quite some time. Most importantly, it has already directly impacted thousands of youth across the country.
Bustle spoke with a DREAMer, Ernesto Alejandro Espin, about his thoughts on DACA, and where we should go from here. Espin (pictured center-right) is a senior at New Jersey City University studying International Business and Political Science, and is currently interning at the Permanent Mission of Ecuador for The United Nations.
How has DACA affected you personally?
Well, I believe DACA brought to me — and so many other undocumented students in the USA — the light at the end of the tunnel. I see it as the beginning of new reforms and new policies that can restructure the fabric not only of immigration policy, but human rights policy as well.
When DACA was put into effect, I saw that many of my friends who applied immediately got their documents, their permits. They were able to get their driver's licenses, and the appropriate paperwork to start working in the field they wanted to work in all along.
All of these friends came to this country without a visa or a legal status, and now, finally, they will be able to complement all their efforts (and their families' efforts) to have a better life. Imagine, after so many years of working without legal papers, doing thousands of different low-salary jobs, hoping that when you finish high school, you can go to college — only to realize that because of your legal status you will not be able to work in your dream job, or even try it? That's a tough one, but as we say in Spanish "No hay mal que por bien no venga" (Nothing bad happens without something good happening in the future.)
For my case, and the case of my friends, it brought a sense of stability in this country. From here, we look forward to the future, and to contributing to this blessed land.
2. What can be improved about immigration policy?
I feel that DACA provided a great benefit for many of the students who wanted to go to college, or apply for a professional job. But there is still much work to do. In terms of health insurance, affordable health plans could be beneficial to cover the expensive prices of health practices and medicines. I also believe that DACA can also be extended and amended to people older than the 32-year-old cap, so that more families who are undocumented in the USA can access these aids.
3. Where should we go from here?
We need investment and social reforms channelled towards the immigrant population and minorities. If investment is properly channeled towards these sectors of our society where its most needed, we can create a worldwide impact in the social, political, and even spiritual fabric of the world.
(Images: AP|Reuters|Getty|Julieta Garibay|NYT, Paola Lebron)