For six months, March 5 had loomed fatefully in the distance, an impending deadline for Congress to pass legislation reforming the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that was rescinded by President Donald Trump six months earlier.
Now March 5 has come and gone, and while Congress has yet to pass a permanent legislative solution, two court cases are enabling DACA recipients to continue to apply for work permit renewals.
These cases might provide temporary relief to DACA recipients hoping to live and work legally in the U.S., but they do not provide a sustainable solution or a path to citizenship for the nearly 800,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children who are enrolled in the Obama-era program.
Ohio State DACA students are keenly aware of this, and some say they are tired of being used as pawns in the political game of immigration reform, their lives used as leverage in an ongoing debate about border control.
“Stop using us as a playing piece,” said Lidia Garcia, a first-year in women’s, gender and sexuality studies and DACA recipient. “We might have not been able to vote [our congressmen] into their positions, but they’ve been voted into office by the American people, and American citizens are saying these children deserve to have rights and to have this pathway to citizenship.”
Garcia was interviewed by The Lantern in September, when the Trump administration first announced its plan to dismantle DACA. At the time, she hoped the decision would lead to meaningful policy change that would guarantee her future, enabling her to legally live and work in the United States.
This is all I know. This is my home. But at the end of the day, I want to know, is [DACA reform] going to happen? Because living in uncertainty is not a good life. —Yuri Arteaga, third-year in accounting
Now, however, that hope has evolved into frustration. She fears that the rights afforded to her under DACA might be taken away, perhaps in the near future.
“Being stripped of [those rights] is like being treated like an animal,” she said. “Animals have more rights than us right now. I feel like we are no more than a puzzle piece in all of this, a pawn in this legislative obsession with immigration.”
Garcia is not the only DACA recipient at Ohio State who feels this way.
Yuri Arteaga, a third-year in accounting, also is worried about what his future might look like without DACA.
Arteaga moved to the U.S. from El Salvador with his mother and sister when he was 5 years old to join family who already lived in the country legally.
He’s lived in Columbus for most of his life, but his DACA status was set to expire at the beginning of August.
“Originally, I thought, ‘Wow, in less than a year, I’m not going to have a status in this country,’” he said. “So the court injunction has been a blessing because I’ve been able to renew my DACA. I guess I’ll have another two years in this country. At least I’ll be able to graduate.”
But what will come after graduation? Both Garcia and Arteaga would like to build their careers in the U.S., but neither are certain if that will be possible.
“This is all I know,” Arteaga said. “This is my home. But at the end of the day, I want to know, is [DACA reform] going to happen? Because living in uncertainty is not a good life.”