Dreamers Look Forward To Biden Administration After Being Left In Limbo
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, has granted work authorization and protection from deportation to approximately 750,000 recipients who were brought to the U.S. as children. After being put on hold by the Trump Administration since 2017, the Department of Homeland Security says U.S. Customs and Immigration Services will once again accept new DACA applications.
Luna Azul Chacon has been a DACA recipient for the last four years.
“That process was really intense. I know that for me I literally just wanted to give up because I was like, ‘Is it even worth it?’” she said.
Chacon arrived in the U.S. from Mexico with her parents and younger brother when she was only 5 years old. When she turned 15, she was eligible to apply for DACA.
“I kind of did know that I was undocumented but I didn’t know what that meant,” she said.
This is a similar journey that many DACA recipients have encountered.
Chacon is now a first generation college student studying to become a pediatrician or OB-GYN.
When the pandemic hit, she needed to help support her family financially. Then she contracted COVID-19.
“I wanted to have as minimal contact with them as possible because I knew they had jobs so if they got sick we would be in an even worse situation,” she said.
Despite living with her family under the same roof, Chacon was the only one to get sick.
She was forced to take time off work to recover, but still needed to navigate the ever-changing DACA renewal process and pay the $495 filing fee.
“Its always changing, especially right now,” she said.
In 2017, the Trump administration suspended DACA, disallowing any new applicants from receiving the protection.
Kevin M. Tracy, a San Diego attorney who handles DACA cases, says President Trump terminated DACA to force Congress to take action.
“Congress is the body that enacts immigration legislation. Although it was implemented in 2012, for 18 years before that you had the Dream Act, and the Dream Act had been in Congress for over 18 years and they could never agree as to how to implement it,” he said.
Marian Mata Garcia is another Dreamer who came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2001 when she was a baby.
When she turned 15, her parents helped her apply for DACA status, which meant she could get a drivers license and work authorization.
“I was never discouraged because of my status, if I saw something that was ‘oh permanent residence and U.S. citizen,’ ok well I won’t apply to that. And I just kept looking for other resources,” she said.
Her perseverance to look for those opportunities led her to transfer from community college to UC San Diego where she is studying Global Health and Biology.
Garcia said her personal experience with DACA helped her look at the pandemic from a different point of view.
“I live in uncertainty every single day, that’s my life, so for me I thought oh well the government is going to control whatever and then we’re just gonna do it,” she said. “That’s been my life. The government says DACA is now only one year, okay, well, now it’s one year.”
Luna Azul Chacon said she was proud of the voter turnout in the recent elections.
“People don’t realize how important their vote is especially for those that can’t vote,” she said.
Both Chacon and Garcia say they have high hopes for president-elect Biden, who has pledged to reinstate DACA after taking office.
“I do have high hopes for this new administration. All we can really do is wait, hold on, go out, and show them that we’re here and that we’re here to stay,” Garcia said.
Tania Thorne is a San Diego native with a passion to tell stories and document the latest news in her community. Fluent in Spanish, Tania has dove deep into the Tijuana border and covered the migrant caravan, immigrant stories of asylum, and human smuggling. She has also done reporting in Europe, Mexico, and Southern California.
Co-published with KPBS.