“I am terrified that I will be deported— that I won’t be able to finish my career and that I will never be able to see my family again,” said one University of Nevada, Reno, student. That student, who we’ll call Jane, is also a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — a “Dreamer.”
The Trump administration announced it was ending the program on Tuesday, Sept. 5, leaving DACA recipients uncertain of what their future in the U.S. — if any — would look like.
In Reno, more than 100 people gathered on campus in front of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and downtown in front of the federal courthouse building to protest the decision.
DACA was enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2012 through an executive order. The program “deferred” deportation of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, allowing them to live in the country without fear of deportation and have some of the same rights as citizens.
More than 800,000 were able to receive a Social Security number, go to school, get a job and in some states, a driver’s license.
The program is only available to those who were brought to the U.S. before mid-2007. Among a bevy of other requirements, participants must pass a background check and have a clean criminal record in order to qualify for the program and renew their DACA status every two years.
Jane, who wished to remain anonymous, was brought to Los Angeles when she was seven months old by her young, single mother who wanted a better life for her child in the U.S. They moved to the Reno area a few years after entering the country and never left.
Now she faces the threat of deportation to a country she has never known.
“I wouldn’t recognize my birth place if I were to ever go back,” she said. “Now that 800,000 people have decided to trust the government and come out of the shadows, they have no idea what to expect.”
She said that DACA has made her feel normal, allowed her to go to school and choose a career path she wanted to follow, instead of being forced into another job because of her citizenship status.
Her fears resonate with many Dreamers, the name DACA recipients have been come to known as, as they attend colleges and universities in hopes of pursuing a career in the United States.
UNR does not collect data on how many Dreamers attend the university because if they did, they would have to report it to the federal government.
President Marc Johnson reaffirmed the university’s position on DACA on Friday, Sept. 1, in response to looming threats that President Trump would make his decision about DACA in the coming week.
In a press release, Johnson commented on the importance of DACA students to the university community and assured them they were welcome to remain at UNR.
“The past several days have been very stressful for our DACA students and their families, as they have been dealing with a high level of uncertainty,” Johnson said. “The University of Nevada, Reno values our DACA students, and we are here to advocate for them and stand with them.”
President Johnson made the university’s position on DACA clear after the 2016 presidential election. Then-candidate Trump ran on the promise to end DACA because he felt it was executive overreach by the Obama administration.
However, President Johnson decided to not make UNR a sanctuary campus last December despite a petition signed by more than 700 UNR students gathered by the Latinx Student Advisory Board. A sanctuary campus means the administration would pledge to protect undocumented students from deportation.
The Nevada System of Higher Education also released a statement in support of finding a permanent solution to keep DACA.
“DACA students have grown up in Nevada communities and graduated from Nevada high schools,” reads the statement. “The DACA program has been instrumental in providing access to NSHE institutions; as these are students who have met our admissions requirements and are making positive economic, cultural, and scholarly impacts on our communities. Access to higher education changes lives for the better for all Nevadans.”
The president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Noah Teixeira, released a statement on DACA, which was co-signed by more than 30 student leaders from colleges and universities across the country. The statement urged Congress to protect DACA students and promised to fight for the continuation of the program.
“To our DACAmented peers, know that you are not alone, and that your sacrifices will not go unseen,” reads the statement. “We will hold ourselves, our communities, and our leaders accountable. Repealing DACA was a harmful decision and one that we will not stop fighting against.”
President Trump has given a six-month window to Dreamers, tweeting that they don’t have to worry about being deported in that time.
“For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No action!” reads his Sept. 7 tweet.
President Trump gave Congress those six months to pass legislation that would replace DACA and protect Dreamers. The UNR student hopes that if Congress is able to pass legislation in the next six months, they will create a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
“Since 100 percent of the people who apply for DACA have no criminal record and are individuals who are working to better themselves with careers and degrees I believe it would benefit not only the individuals but this country as well,” she said. “DACA recipients want and strive for that American Dream that everyone else wants.”
However, if Congress fails to pass this proposed legislation, it is uncertain what will happen next.
Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.