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Fronteras: ‘We don’t have to watch DACA go away’ — United We Dream helps young undocumented immigrants navigate a complex system

On June 15, 2012, former President Barack Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under the program, individuals who were brought into the United States with no lawful status as children were now allowed to hold work permits, social security numbers, and receive temporary deportation protections.

DACA has since faced several legal challenges.

The Department of Homeland Security initiated a phase out of the program in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to review DACA’s legality after a district judge declared it illegal in 2021.

DACA remains in place today with several limitations: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services no longer accepts new applications and many students don’t qualify because they arrived in the U.S. after 2007.

The immigrant-led advocacy group United We Dream is fighting for the fair treatment of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., including DACA recipients.

Judith B is an undocumented immigrant and a recent graduate of Texas A&M University. Her twin sister has DACA protections, she does not.

Judith said she has faced challenges applying to medical schools because of her legal status.

“There’s a requirement of having at least a green card to apply for Texas medical schools,” she said. “It’s difficult that I can’t apply here in Texas … (so) I applied out of state to all the schools that I could. But even though I did get accepted into medical school, the cost is very high.”

Juan José Martitnez-Guevara, Texas advocacy manager for United We Dream, is a DACA recipient.

He said the organization aims to empower young immigrants in the community to use their voice and take action.

“DACA itself was a win coming from immigrant youth advocating for their rights and for justice,” he said. “We can continue to materialize more wins for ourselves. We don’t have to be under DACA forever. We don’t have to watch DACA go away.”

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1