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DACA students speak out on program’s repeal

Editor’s Note: The Collegian is not publishing the last names of Maria and Anarely due to the sensitive nature of their stories, and because these students are affected by the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Bill.  

Supporters of DACA hold signs in support of DACA, and the rights of undocumented persons at Colorado State University during a rally in the Plaza in February. (Forrest Czarnecki | Collegian)

The potential end of DACA has made undocumented students on campus fearful of losing the opportunity to work and study in the U.S., or even be deported to a country they never knew.

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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Executive Order, or DACA, gives students who are undocumented who were brought to America as minors the opportunity to work and study in the United States. An announcement last week from President Donald Trump regarding the termination of the bill in six months left students across the country reeling as they struggle to cope with an uncertain future.

There are approximately 189 students at Colorado State University who will be directly impacted by the decision to rescind DACA, according to an email sent last week by CSU President Tony Frank.

Many of the people who are undocumented who entered the country as minors call themselves Dreamers, and the Dreamers United organization brings these students at CSU together.

According to Maria, undocumented freshman, the title of “dreamer” represents hope for a better future.

“(DACA is) what we represent,” Maria said. “We have dreams, and we’re asking to be allowed to pursue our dreams.”

We have dreams, and we’re asking to be allowed to pursue our dreams.”Maria, a DACA student at CSU

Maria was brought to the United States from Mexico City when she was two months old, similar to many other Dreamers, who often remember no country other than the United States. 

“It’s truly like an identity crisis, it truly is,” Maria said. “It’s like, ‘Okay, so I’m not wanted here, and I’m not American according to these people,’ but this is the only place I know, so I’m not Mexican.”

Since its establishment by the Obama Administration in 2012, the DACA executive order has given these people social security numbers and work permits. In order to be eligible for DACA, recipients are required to reapply every two years. But, for some whose permits expire after March 5, President Trump’s decision means that they will lose the order’s protections.

“I was fortunate enough that it doesn’t affect me for another two years because I was able to renew my permit,” Maria said. “(But) there’s some people where, if your permit does not expire between now and March 5, you are no longer allowed to renew it.”

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According to Anarely, who works for Dreamers United, the most valuable aspect of DACA is protection from deportation because it gives dreamers like herself a peace-of-mind that allows them to concentrate in daily life.

“DACA wasn’t just a work permit,” Anarely said. “It was the ability to not be scared.”

DACA wasn’t just a work permit. It was the ability to not be scared.”Anarely, a member of Dreamers United

To Anarely and other undocumented students on campus, losing DACA would mean losing opportunities to improve their lives.

“For a lot of us, it was a game changer, because I feel like a lot of us were living under the shadows, and we were doing a lot of jobs where we were being taken advantage of, like where you would get paid $4 an hour,” Anarely said. “Having that work permit allowed us to do better than that. Some of us are bioengineers, and we can do so much better than a gardening job.”

To better help students cope with DACA’s uncertain future, the Student Legal Services office has created a program for expert immigration attorneys to come to campus once a month to meet with students, free of charge.

According to Kathleen Harward, director of SLS, this program helps answer student questions about their own situations in a confidential manner.

“When President Trump took office, it was real clear right off the bat that there would be a lot of questions about immigration,” Harward said. “I think it helped a lot when President Trump issued his travel ban (that) we already had this program in place.”

Harward encourages any students with legal questions or who want to meet with an attorney in a safe atmosphere to contact the SLS office. The immigration lawyers will be on campus on Tuesday, Oct. 12 and Nov. 16 in the Lory Student Center Room 284.

Following Trump’s announcement that DACA would be passed to Congress with a six-month period to determine the future of the bill, counseling services were offered at El Centro for students who relied upon DACA to live and work at CSU.

According to Anarely, this emotional counseling was utilized by numerous students, some of whom even reported having traumatic, reoccurring nightmares about being deported.

El Centro is the Latino cultural center on campus. According to Diego “Fez” Lopez-Duran, an employee at El Centro, the  fear surrounding the end of DACA is making it harder for students to concentrate on school.

“If you are a student with the fear of getting deported and having a bunch of legal issues, you can’t really focus on school as much,” Lopez-Duran said. “You can’t really focus on your job as much, you can’t really become as much of a functioning member of society as you’d like.”

Maria and Anarely agree that the uncertainty surrounding DACA is one of the worst aspects about the repeal.

It’s just a big waiting game, and now it’s another six months.”Maria, a DACA student at CSU

“This waiting game is truly exhausting,” Maria said. “It’s just a big waiting game, and now it’s another six months.  So, it’s like be scared, but don’t be too scared yet.”

Although reports differed across the aisle, “Dreamers” like Maria may have something to hope for as of Wednesday night. 

In the aftermath of last week’s announcement from the Trump administration, Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer met with the White House to discuss protections for the “Dreamers.”

Tweets from The White House said DACA was one of many list items they reportedly discussed with Pelosi and Schumer.

Pelosi and Schumer, alternatively, championed the fact that they would be reinstating protection for DACA, as well as broaching the topic of border security. Trump’s infamous wall, however, was not among topics of conversation.

There were reports prior to the dinner that a replacement piece of legislation for DACA might have sprung up in Congress. Both Maria and Anarely are hoping for a more permanent solution to the immigration crisis within the next six months.

“It’ll be my last year here when my permit expires, so we’re just hoping that the time the president gave to Congress will go well,” Maria said. “We’re not going down without a fight, … We deserve to be here.”

Collegia n news reporter Mason Force can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @masforce1.

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