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Border & Immigration

‘This Is Still Not Enough’: One Texas Dreamer’s Journey Through DACA’s Precarious Existence

daniela_rojas_by_carlos_garcia.jpg
Carlos Garcia for The Daily Texan
Daniela Rojas

More than 600,000 undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program —or DACA — received some good news this week.

The Supreme Court upheld the Obama administration program that allows children who were brought to the US illegally to live and work in the country. 

They are often referred to as “Dreamers,” and there are more than 100,000 of them in Texas. Daniela Rojas is one of them. She said her family was nervous all week about the decision. And then she woke up Thursday morning.

“I just looked at my phone immediately and the first news that I saw was that, you know, they didn't end DACA, so I was like, happy, but also like, ‘Okay, this is still not enough,” she said.

Still not enough, because her 16-year-old sister is undocumented — and now of age to qualify for DACA.

“I texted her in all caps. I was like, ‘They didn't end DACA!’ And then she texted back, ‘They didn't?’ And so then the other question was like, ‘Okay, well, when can we start? Like, when are they going to start accepting new applications?’ So yeah, that's the conversation so far, and everyone's really happy in my family,” she said.

Two years ago, Daniela and other dreamers were in limbo when a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA.

Daniela was a junior at UT Austin at the time. She talked to The Daily Texan about the continued tug of war over her future and that of other dreamers.

“We can't keep going in this process. My life is not a political game. I'm not a bargaining chip, like you need to do something,” she told the college newspaper.

The Supreme Court decision this week only means the program is safe for now.  And it is still unknown if the federal government will open the program to new applicants, like Daniela’s sister.

Daniela immigrated to Austin from Colombia with her family in 2006 and applied for DACA immediately after it was launched in 2012. She graduated from UT Austin in 2019 and now works for an Austin city council member.

She’s not celebrating the decision just yet. She said she’d like to see a pathway to citizenship and real change.

“I think that DACA is a great program, but it's just sort of like a Band-Aid on, you know, a problem. That needs to actually be fixed,” she said. “These are like the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people that are contributing to this country and their lives can't be put on hold every other presidency.”

Maria Mendez can be reached at maria@tpr.org and on twitter @anxious_maria.