Attorney General Jeff Sessions just announced President Trump's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program allowed people who came to this country as children without documentation and met certain strict guidelines to stay in the country for two years, with possible renewals. More than 800,000 "Dreamers," nicknamed for a stalled immigration bill called the DREAM Act, signed up. To qualify, they had to be students, active military or honorably discharged veterans, or high school graduates, without any criminal record. They must have arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16. And they had to pay a $465 fee every two years and subject themselves to fingerprinting and governmental review to renew their deferment. DACA enabled them to be lawfully in the country. That meant they could get work permits, apply to colleges, and contribute in bigger ways to their communities.
And that's exactly what they did. Dreamers have become doctors and firefighters, soldiers and teachers, husbands and wives—and parents. But now that the Justice Department has declared the executive order invalid, their futures are at risk.
That's the case for *Marisa, an early beneficiary of DACA, whose parents brought her to the U.S. from Ecuador at the age of eight. Her parents moved to the U.S. soon after Marisa was born and worked three different shifts, to send money home to provide medical care for her in Ecuador—she had been born with a bone-related issue that required significant therapy. "They crossed that border for me," Marisa says.
After she arrived in the U.S. Marisa went on to get a 4.2 average in school, and graduated in the top of her class in one of the most competitive high schools in her state. But that meant little when she wanted to apply for college, where she discovered that she wouldn't be eligible for financial aid or even in-state tuition because of her immigration status. "It was very hard for me," Marisa recalls. "I knew that my future was going to be similar to my parents—minimum-wage jobs, couldn’t travel, couldn’t drive a car or do anything."
When DACA came into effect, Marisa was able to go on to earn top honors in her double major of finance and global business management—and start a six-figure career in finance on Wall Street. She just bought her first house, and is worried that her chance at the American dream will be taken away. "There's a lot of misconception that we’re a burden to society," she says. "I pay taxes and contribute to the economy and my community. We want to contribute, and we want to have a normal life."
She knows other DACA recipients with young kids, who may risk losing their families along with their livelihood if Congress fails to provide another option for the Dreamers. "What DACA allowed us to do was dream, to think that in the future we would have better opportunities than our parents did, and that if we worked hard that would somehow pay off," Marisa says. "That was true until a few days ago. My friends built their lives, and now all of that is in jeopardy."
The costs of this will impact more than just the Dreamers themselves. The Center for American Progress estimates that we would lose 685,000 workers, and more than $460 billion in gross domestic product as a result of this rollback. And it will cost all of us these important members of our communities. "We are the doctors who take care of them, the people on Wall Street who make sure their investments and 401Ks are safe," Marisa says. "We were raised side by side with their kids, and we were brought here through no fault of our own. We were raised all of our lives to be American—we played baseball and ate hamburgers, and we do all the things American kids do—we just don’t have papers."
*Marisa's name has been changed to protect her privacy and her family.