ORLANDO, Fla. — June 15 this year marks 10 years since President Barack Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Policy, or DACA.
The executive action provided relief to certain unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children and faced the risk of deportation. However, a decade after it changed the lives of immigrants across the country, the program remains in limbo.
Melani Candia is a DACA recipient who remembers clearly the day the program was established.
“It completely opened doors that were previously, not just closed, but slammed shut…bolted,” Candia said.
Candia’s family moved to Florida 22 years ago. She applied for DACA immediately after it was passed.
Under the program, Candia says she’s been able to get her drivers’ license, rent a home, and earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida on the way to her dream of becoming a teacher.
“It was a lifeline, and it kept us from drowning,” Candia said. “But at the end of the day, we’re still in the ocean.”
As a DACA recipient, Candia received in-state tuition at UCF for her undergraduate degree, but has not been able to achieve the same financial status for her graduate degree.
“I’m trying to help this community I’ve lived in for so long, and now, because of this lack of systemic change, it squashes you.”
DACA was meant to be a temporary policy, as President Obama hoped Congress would pass the DREAM Act. 10 years later, DACA’s future is more uncertain than ever.
Last July, a United States District Court Judge from Texas ruled DACA was unlawful and ordered the federal government to stop approving first-time applications for the more than 600,000 DACA recipients they know of so far.
“It’s a temporary setting that can be taken away at any point, which is terrifying,” Candia said.
Currently, immigration reform remains stalled with no clear-cut pathway to citizenship.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an appeal to the ruling on DACA. No court hearings have been scheduled in that case.
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