Fear, doubt and anger were some of the reactions to President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to ‘wind down’ the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.
“(I’m) heartbroken, quite honestly,” said Natalia Rojas, a seventh-semester University of Connecticut journalism major and Daily Campus copy editor who benefits from DACA.
DACA, a program created by executive order under former president Obama’s administration, granted children brought to the United States deferred action against deportation as well as a permit to work, study and get a driver’s license while in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Due to the decision, those who received DACA will lose the protection they had against deportation and will not be able to legally work.
For some of these recipients who are students at UConn, the United States is the only country they have ever known.
Rojas, who moved to the United States from Bolivia when she was four years old, came with a visa that expired in 2010 and in 2012 was one of the 10,0000 people in Connecticut able to apply for DACA, according to the American Immigration Council.
“I barely remember Bolivia or any of my relatives. I was only four when we moved here,” Rojas said. “I remember stuff like falling off my bike in front of a nice house I had back home, which I don't (have) here. I remember the day after we got robbed in my Bolivian home.”
The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing new applications as of Tuesday, according to their website. Trump stated he will give Congress a window of six months to take action and ‘revise’ the program.
UConn President Susan Herbst released a statement on Tuesday voicing her support for students under the protection of the act.
“Today, students in the DACA program who are enrolled at UConn have proven themselves to be talented, hard-working and ambitious, which is how they gained admission and why they are succeeding academically,” Herbst wrote. “Above all, these bright young people are striving to succeed. That sense of hope and opportunity represents the great promise of the United States and our higher education system. Today’s action would have us turn our backs on them. That is cruel, unjustified and ultimately self-defeating.”
Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, as well as Gov. Dannel Malloy, have denounced the decision, saying they will keep on fighting for “Dreamers,” the name that immigrant youth have adopted, according to a press release.
Seventh-semester journalism major Isaiah Chisolm said he supports DACA and believes immigrants have the potential to make America better.
“They are hardworking immigrants without a criminal record, or any such blemishes, who contribute just as much to American society as anyone else,” Chisolm said.
Four out of five migrants from the Americas move within the region, which has been heightened by violence in Central American countries. Many of the new immigrants are children that are sent by their parents to cross the border by themselves, according to a UNICEF report.
UConn has taken steps in the past to protect students by not asking or revealing their migratory status. There are no records kept on how many students at the university have DACA, according to UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz.
“UConn does not collect or retain information on undocumented students’ immigration status. The university does not have a list of undocumented students. UConn will not create such a registry or document. UConn could not and would not provide that information to others,” Reitz said.
Ninety-seven percent of those under DACA are students or are in the workforce, according to a 2017 national DACA survey conducted by Tom K. Wong of the University of California San Diego, United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for American Progress.
Rojas wrote about her story on Her Campus, a college magazine, detailing the anxiousness she feels with being undocumented, as well as the attacks she received after tweeting about DACA.
“I’m about to graduate college in a year. What am I supposed to do with two degrees and no work permit?” Rojas tweeted.
Rojas said she received multiple negative comments from “Go back home, make Mexico Great Again,” to “Illegals get too many free benefits, like free education.”
With fear and anxiety a constant for Rojas since the election, she said she has considered the possibility of moving to Canada.
“I don’t know what else to do. My work permit expires in September 2018 and I graduate a couple of months before that,” Rojas said.
Rojas said she still believes the United States is her country.
“Dreamers won’t go without a fight,” Rojas said.
Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.