Op-ed: My Story is Proof That DACA is Not Enough for Young People

by | Jun 14, 2022 | News

On December 23, 2020, I remember running to my parents with a huge smile on my face excited to tell them great news. After years of waiting for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program applications to be reopened, I had another opportunity to apply. I couldn’t believe it! I originally applied for the program my freshman year of college in 2017, right as then-President Donald Trump had first tried to ruthlessly end the program. Unfortunately, my application wasn’t accepted before their arbitrary cutoff date, and it was rejected.

Then, in December 2020, nearly six months after a ruling from the Supreme Court found that Trump didn’t follow the right process to try to end DACA, a federal judge in New York ruled that finally, after years of waiting, the government needed to accept new DACA applications. I could barely contain my excitement. After I told my parents they gave me the biggest hug. This is what they wanted for me, an opportunity to get a driver’s license, get a work permit to be able to help my family financially, and also see some relief from the constant fear of detention and deportation.  I also felt eager for the opportunity to go back to school for my bachelor’s degree as a DACA recipient.

Back in 2019, I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Psychology and I was determined to continue my education. The thought of applying for the program and possibly being rejected after years of waiting was on my mind but I knew I needed to try again. After receiving the news, my dad and I went to a lawyer for support on the application process. My application was then sent off to USCIS. After a few months of anxiously waiting, I had my biometrics appointment. I was shocked at how fast the process was and hopeful that the rest of the process would go as smoothly.

Sadly after more months of waiting and my lawyer saying that the delay was due to COVID, I read an article stating that new DACA applications would not be accepted. This happened all because a judge here in Texas, Andrew Hanen, considered DACA unlawful! I was in denial and I called my lawyer who confirmed the news: no new applications would be accepted. They said I wouldn’t receive DACA for the meantime, and that they didn’t know when I would be able to get DACA, if ever.

I wanted to run as far away as possible. If I had DACA, I would be able to help out my parents who are also undocumented. I’d be able to have my first job, get a driver’s license, and go back to school.

My four years in high school were dedicated to studying nonstop and balancing my college and high school courses as I was chosen for a dual credit program. I put my social life aside to focus on my education. After all that work, my future was held in limbo by one politically motivated decision after another. Enough is enough!

I am not alone. I am one of an estimated 80,000 young people who got their hopes up, saved up the $495 to pay for the DACA application, only to have our applications paused by this court ruling. It wasn’t until I joined United We Dream and took part in their “Summer of Dreams” program that I felt like I had a group of peers who could support me while we went through similar struggles.

Together, we used our voices to share our stories. We decided we were going to take action and demand what we know we truly deserve!

With this ten-year anniversary of DACA, it’s a perfect reminder of the organizing power of immigrant communities. It was young immigrants like me who a decade ago were making bold and brave decisions to demand justice for ourselves and for our families. This anniversary marks a decade of attacks and a decade of inaction from elected officials to protect our lives. Year after year politicians campaign on promises of permanent protections for our communities. But right now, Democrats have the power—it’s time for them to deliver.

There are tens of thousands of undocumented people like me who qualified for the program but have had to live without DACA because of the Texas ruling, not to mention the millions of undocumented people, like my parents, who don’t qualify for a program like DACA. Not only do we live under the constant anxiety and threat of deportation, but we have always been living proof that DACA is not enough! We need more than temporary, we need citizenship now!

An immigrant from Mexico and a member of United We Dream, Aurora Lozano is 23 years old and lives in San Antonio. She joined United We Dream’s Summer of Dreams program in 2021 where she first told her story and felt the power of sharing her immigrant experience.

Original photo: Molly Adams / Wikimedia Commons

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