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DACA Recipients Face Uncertainty Under Trump

Matt Johnson via Flickr Creative Commons
Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

President-Elect Donald Trump told voters he plans to cancel some executive orders approved by President Obama. That could include an immigration policy that gives tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in Texas temporary deportation relief and work authorization. Texas Public Radio reports those recipients of ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ or DACA now face an uncertain future.

President Obama passed DACA in 2012, which allowed some undocumented immigrants to step out of the shadows and legally work without fear of deportation. Diego Mancha says he didn’t apply for the program right away.

“I actually waited until after the election, right, because I didn’t know what Romney was going to do, and so I waited until after the election and Obama had been successfully confirmed to a second term,” says Mancha. “And that’s when I applied.”

Four years later, another election, and that uncertainty is back. While covered under DACA, Mancha, whose family came to San Antonio from Mexico City when he was 9, earned a degree from UTSA and worked a lot. 

“I’ve had up to three jobs at a time,” says Mancha. “And I’ve always had a job. I think DACA has really allowed for me to be employed, make money and contribute to my family and pay off my school.”

The 22-year-old is one of about 139,000 young people in Texas who’ve taken advantage of the program, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Mancha says he fell asleep on election night without much concern, but the Trump upset changed that.

“And then I wake up and have text messages from friends that know of my situation and my status and are worried,” Mancha says.

Mancha doesn’t know what to tell them, at least not yet. And he’s not alone. Jonathan Ryan is director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services—or RAICES—in San Antonio.

“In the past few days following the election, we have had had hundreds and hundreds of people come to our waiting rooms, seeking information, calling us,” says Ryan. “And the number one question that we get is from people who have DACA asking, ‘what’s going to happen to me?’”

RAICES provides free legal services for thousands of DACA applicants every year. Donald Trump promised voters he’d end DACA if elected. He will have the legal authority to do that, but Ryan says it’s not cost-effective to deport hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.   

“President Trump is going to have to consider not just the politics, but also the economics of spending nearly $10 billion,” says Ryan. “And for what? Just to rip apart families? To raid the homes of our neighbors?”

Ryan says he’s been encouraged by recent Trump statements that suggest he might be open to an immigration policy more practical than deporting millions of people. And, he says that DACA came about because people stood up for it, not because of who was in the White House.

“President Obama signed the executive order for DACA not because he wanted to, but because his hand was forced,” says Ryan. “Undocumented youth organized. They spoke out. They used their voices to have political power. That is what resulted in DACA. And so, we should not move forward thinking without a liberal or stated pro-immigrant president that there is no hope.”

Ryan says he’s encouraging everybody who’s eligible for DACA to keep applying for it, and to move forward without fear. Diego Mancha says he’s still glad he applied four years ago.

“We knew that this was a calculated risk we all took,” he says.

Mancha graduated college this spring. He’s hoping a change in policy doesn’t derail his future in the city where he grew up.

“I had plans to go to law school, but I’m not sure what those plans are looking like right now,” says Mancha. “With this new presidency, I think a lot of different things might change—and I don’t know what that change looks like.”