He Grew Up American—Then His Dad Said, ‘We Need To Talk’
On June 15, 2012, then President Barack Obama signed the highly popular policy into law, which put in place a series of protections for those who illegally entered the United States before age 16. Among other criteria, the legislation required those that qualified to attend high school or college in the United States or to obtain a work permit to stay under protection from deportation. Those who apply and are approved are protected for up to two years and can apply for renewal. They do not, however, gain citizenship or legal status in the United States.
A staggering 1.9 million people are eligible for the benefits of DACA in the United States. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center estimate, nearly 78 percent of those who are eligible have applied, despite the lofty registration and renewal fee.
One of the vital assets of DACA is that the protection status is supposed to be retroactive: Those in the process of removal proceedings should receive protection under the law. But, as the experience of Daniela Vargas, a recently detained young dreamer—in spite of having an application in process—has now made clear, the fate of these young people is suddenly uncertain. Despite President Donald Trump’s recent promise that he would show “great heart” to those with DACA status, he spent months campaigning on the premise of ridding our nation of “bad hombres,” and he explicitly noted he would terminate the legislation in an August 2016 speech, stating it “defied federal law and the Constitution.”
Trump can at any time immediately cancel the DACA program, which means that most dreamers now live in a discomfiting in-between that can be hard to describe to an outsider looking in. In our new series “Limbo,” we share the first person stories of those caught in the middle.