Immigrants are worried about losing their work permits and driver's licenses—and possibly being deported—if President Trump decides to rescind DACA.
The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gave nearly eight hundred thousand unauthorized immigrants temporary work authorization and relief from deportation. But on the campaign trail, President Trump railed against Obama’s “illegal executive amnesties
,” saying, “In a Trump administration, all immigration laws will be enforced.”
Since taking office, Trump has seemed to waver. In April, he said DACA recipients should “rest easy” because his administration would only go after criminals. But now, that softer tone has gone away. As The New York Times recently reported
, “Key players in his administration have advised Mr. Trump to wind down the program, and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has informed him he considers it unconstitutional and cannot defend it in court.”
In North Carolina, job opportunities opened for many young immigrants with DACA at companies like IBM, whose Research Triangle Park office currently employs DACA-holder Cinthia Marroquin, age twenty-seven.
Marroquin, the eldest in her family, chose to get a good-paying job and forgo school plans. Her younger brothers with DACA are working toward degrees. The first thing Marroquin did when she got the job was buy a house for her parents.
“Buying a home isn’t hard. I had done the research,” says Marroquin, a customer service representative. “But it’s hard for undocumented people because the interest is so high.”
When she received her DACA permit almost five years ago, Marroquin saw interests rates drop in her favor. She saved money for a down payment and enough that her mother wouldn’t have to work anymore. She lives with her parents in the house she bought in north Raleigh. Her mother recently quit her job, where she was making $150 to $200 a week at a restaurant washing dishes and cooking.
“They’ve been cracking down with E-verify,” Marroquin says. That program, designed to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers, limits job opportunities for many immigrants. “My mom and stepdad have always worked in restaurants, that’s all they know how to do.”
She says that this week, after working at a chain restaurant for almost twenty years, her stepdad was fired because of E-verify.
On April 26, Marroquin renewed her DACA protection for another two years.
So far, the Trump administration hasn’t said out what will happen to the permits of current DACA holders.
“I would think that if they were to rescind it, they would still honor that ones that have approved,” says Diana Zaleta, a twenty-three-year-old student at Durham Tech. “But it’s still not a lot of consolation.”
Zaleta renewed her two-year DACA permit for the second time this month. For the first year, she worked full-time as a bank teller to save for school. She recently completed her first year toward an associate’s degree, and hopes to transfer to a four-year college for a bachelor’s in accounting.
“I just have one year left to finish [the associate’s degree],” she says. “Without DACA, I would be stuck. Knowing that you’re making all these plans to create a better future for yourself and to be in a world where you have no control over what can basically destroy those plans. Students like me are working as hard as we can to get our degrees, get certified, not knowing if we’ll be able to finish that or pursue their career.”
Activists and immigrants think DACA will likely be terminated in the coming days. But Marroquin and Zaleta point out that nothing has ever been guaranteed. “We’re just used to them screwing with us. They’re going to do whatever they want,” says Marroquin. “But we just need to inform ourselves and organize.”
The momentum to work toward a new plan is palpable, just not yet activated.
“I just want to remind all DACA holders that we fought to make this happen,” says Viridiana Martinez of Alerta Migratoria. “It did not come without struggle. And to our allies, we need you more than ever to show up for us and our families and communities.”