By Lily Bohlke
Almost 24,000 undocumented young Arizonans rely on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA to live and work in the state.
In July, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal DACA was unconstitutional, and legal experts say that decision means the program must be reopened to first-time applicants.
But the administration still isn’t taking new applications, and now requires DACA recipients to reapply every year instead of every two years.
Karla Daniela Salazar Chavira, an incoming freshman at Grand Canyon University, was too young to apply before DACA was suspended in 2017.
“I’ve always had to worry about the next day. It’s part of being undocumented or ‘DACA-mented,’ or being in a mixed-status family,” Salazar Chavira said. “Like, will I come home tomorrow and see my parents?”
Salazar Chavira said she came to Tempe from México when she was eight months old, so Arizona is her home. A group of undocumented youth is challenging the effort to scale back DACA in a federal court in New York.
Salazar Chavira said it’s been an emotional roller-coaster trying to keep track of the constant ways in which DACA is being undermined, on top of starting college during a pandemic.
“I am your neighbor. I am a member of this community, whether you like to acknowledge me or not. I am here, contributing, because I want the city of Tempe, I want América, to be as great as you wish it was.”
Karla Daniela Salazar Chavira, Student
“I am your neighbor.” Salazar Chavira said. “I am a member of this community, whether you like to acknowledge me or not. I am here, contributing, because I want the city of Tempe, I want América, to be as great as you wish it was.”
Oscar Hernández Ortíz is a DACA recipient and prospective law student who recently finished two years with Teach for America. He said DACA already had major barriers, including the cost of applying and reapplying, and the changes exacerbate them.
“When the whole idea of an immigrant in the U.S. was to get opportunities, why is it that I am limited?” Hernandez Ortiz asked. “How is that my status – not anything about me, my status – is a defining factor of who I can become?”
Hernández Ortíz said while he personally benefits greatly from DACA, it isn’t enough. He hopes to see Congress pass legislation for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.
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