When President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in June 2012, the lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants changed overnight.
Brought to the U.S. as children, they had grown up undocumented, unable to access the things that most Americans take for granted, like a driver’s license, financial aid or a job. Many had arrived to the United States before they even registered their first memories of their birth countries, and for years were not aware they were undocumented. Many discovered that fact only when they went to get a license or apply for college.
Five years after DACA began, nearly 800,000 Dreamers are benefitting from the program, living as doctors, teachers, truck drivers, students, bankers, chefs. They’re buying homes and raising children, without worrying about deportation.
But DACA is under threat, with rumors that President Trump may end the program as soon as this week. A group of Republican officials has pledged to sue the federal government if Trump doesn’t end DACA by Sept. 5.
As they await a decision, 10 Dreamers tell Univision what they would do if DACA ends.
“I may have to go back to the almond fields”
“We are trying to do exactly what we were told to do: live the dream. I started to live my dream and it’s about to turn into a nightmare. I have always wanted to succeed, always move on and improve myself. But I wasn’t able to until DACA. I was a manager for AutoZone. With DACA I started a trucking company. I succeeded in what I wanted to do. I made a $70,000 investment in starting my own gig. If they take DACA, I won’t be able to have my license, my truck. I may have to go to the almond fields. I don’t want that. But if I’m going to end up in a low-end job again, my kids will suffer the consequences because I’ll have to send their mom back to work and my kids to the babysitter because I won’t be able to pay my bills on my own working in the fields. I’m really scared because I’m gonna lose everything. Making such an investment (in your own business) isn’t something you just do everyday. I’m still in debt for that, so I’m going to go more in debt. I’m worried. I’m scared to death. My wife tells me not to stress about it. She says ‘you’ve been there before, we’ll make it.’ I understand, but it just seems so unfair. I feel they gave me wings and now that I’m trying to fly, they’re gonna cut them off.”
“Eventually I can be a teacher in El Salvador”
“My heart is broken because I worked so hard to get DACA. I have dreams that I haven't accomplished. DACA was one of my dreams, being able to have a decent job to help my family and be someone in life here where I can feel safe. I went to school here. I did everything the right way since I got here. I got DACA and was able to help my family and myself. I don’t want this day to come (when DACA ends). I have to face the reality, find out what’s gonna happen. If they take DACA away, I’m not going to have legal documents to work here. I won’t be able to get a job. I might get deported. If I get deported I have to go back to my country and start all over again there. But I am bilingual. Eventually I can be a teacher there. That’s my second plan. Over there I can teach in any school, I can be a bilingual teacher if this happens. I know it’s not gonna be the same, it will be totally different for me. I’ve been here for such a long time. I feel secure and safe here, and it’s very dangerous to live there. But I have to face the reality. I am heartbroken now, but I need to be strong.”
“If DACA ends it’s back in the shadows”
“I would lose everything pretty much, starting off with being a normal human being, my identity, my job, being separated from my five kids, my wife who I've known for 20 years; they are my life. And I do pretty much everything for them. It's going to be very hard for my wife to do everything alone but not impossible. It is something that might possibly happen and we are preparing and getting ready for this nightmare that's about to come. If DACA ends it’s back in the shadows and it’s not gonna be like before. It’s a matter of waiting for them to ring my doorbell. Living until that day happens … that’s not a way to live … not being able to do anything or even go outside. They look at you and then pull you over because they profile you. It’s not a way of life, you know? We have plans to buy a house. All those plans, you’ve got to put them on hold. I love this country, it has done so much for me. I don't know any other place but here. I wish they could give us a chance.”
“I will continue fighting with my community”
“Before, I wasn’t able to find a job that would accommodate my school. When I got my work permit I was able to go to school and work, to help my parents out with some of the expenses they had. I got health insurance for the first time. I go to the dentist and a doctor checks up on my health now. I have always been an activist. I used to live in Los Angeles but I had to move to Utah due to a family emergency and here it’s been hard to find a group that’s really out there working on immigration issues. The population where I live now, there’s a lot of racist people so it’s really hard for others to come out about their status. But some of my friends that live in California are planning events to fight for DACA and I am hoping to join even if it’s just on social media. I first got involved in immigration rights stuff when I was 14. Since then I’ve continued working with community organizations and been involved with other groups that focus on fighting for equality for undocumented students. I will continue fighting with my community. I refuse to go back in the shadows that I left 13 years ago when I first publicly admitted to being undocumented.”
“Just thinking about it is a nightmare”
“Before DACA I worked at a factory, for a really low wage. It was almost inhuman the way people work there. It was extremely tough. Most of the summer we had to work almost 12 hour shifts. It was tremendous, horrible. When I got my DACA, it opened a lot of doors for me. I was able to get my license, to get a good job working for the city. My husband has DACA too. In December we were finally able to buy a home. We’ve worked so hard to accomplish what we have. We haven’t sat down to plan and discuss what would happen if we were to lose DACA. We don’t want to think about that. Just thinking about it is a nightmare. We’re just hoping for the best right now. We would lose everything: The jobs we have, the freedom we have now, our home. I don’t even want to think about having to go back to that type of job. It would be a huge deal.”
“If I can’t work, we’re going to have to emigrate”
"I work to detect cancer in laboratories at the University of Utah. I help a lot of people without them knowing because early diagnosis can save a life. DACA came when I was defending my master's thesis in molecular biology and for that reason I was able to accept the job that the laboratories offered me. My wife is Mexican, she has a student visa and is about to finish her degree in legal studies. We got married four years ago. We had a long-distance relationship because I couldn’t leave the country so she had to come visit every three months. When DACA came we decided to get married. We’re going to see how things go. The uncertainty is difficult. It’s unfair that they put us in this situation because we haven’t done anything wrong. If I can’t work, we’re going to have to emigrate. I’ve been here 20 years and I have grown for the better. We have a little girl who is two and it would be difficult to go back to working without papers, without knowing if they’re going to deport you or not. While I was in college I worked in a hotel. If I have to I can go back to doing that ... I mean, we have to eat, right? But if an opportunity comes up in another country, I think we’d have to leave. I’ve been in touch with some lawyers in Canada. I know the process and what I would have to do to apply.”
“My only plan is to get a lawyer”
“I'm nervous and I can’t sleep well. Every day I look at Google, I search for ‘DACA’ and I see what they are saying and what options I will have if it’s taken away. I watch the news and get goosebumps. I have many plans, and if they take this away they’ll be taking all my dreams. Here I have a five-year-old daughter and I am afraid that they will deport me and that my daughter will be left alone. I work with my dad landscaping and sometimes drive for Uber. My dad is also afraid that what we have on credit will be taken away. Right now I'm starting a job selling life insurance. I have to study to learn the business, but for that I need DACA. When I arrived I did not know the language. Everyone spoke to me in English and I did not know anything, I couldn’t say more than ‘yeah, yeah.’ My life changed a lot with DACA. Before, I was afraid to leave the house because of the raids where I live. I also got a driver's license. If they do take away DACA, I will no longer have a way to get to work or to study like a normal person. I'm going to have to walk or … I don’t know. My only plan is to get a lawyer, but not yet.”
“I don't know how I would support myself and my children”
"I don't know what I would do if they eliminate DACA. I cannot imagine. I have work and they would throw it away. I don't know how I would support myself and my children. They depend only on me because I am a single mother. They are two and four years old. I work in a nursing home. I take care of older people. I give them baths, I take their blood pressure, I lift them from the bed, I feed them. After I finished high school I got my nurse assistant license. DACA changed my life, oh my God! Before I had DACA I could not get a job, I could not work legally and I had always wanted to do my taxes. I applied to DACA when I was in high school. I was still studying. I plan to go to college, get another degree, something more advanced, like nursing. If they remove DACA now, I will not be able to improve my future. "
“The immediate plan would be to keep going, keep fighting”
“I was born with cerebral palsy. My parents came to the U.S. and left me in Ecuador when I was three years old, with my grandmother. I have two sisters who are Amercian citizens because they were born here. I came to New York when I was 14, without knowing the language and with many dreams and illusions. Despite my disability I graduated from high school with honors and then studied computer science. With DACA I was able to get my license, buy a car and have a beautiful apartment. With DACA I saw an opportunity to get out of the shadows, I was able to receive the therapies that were so necessary for my physical condition. DACA definitely changed my life. Now I am 26 years old and I am the mother of a three year old. I work for Uber, since that allows me to choose my schedule to be with my son. I do not really know what I would do without DACA. I trust and I have faith in God that all will be well. If they take (DACA) away, we must fight, we cannot cry. I will continue to look for another solution because I believe that in this life everything is a struggle, and you can't just wait for things to fall from the sky. All my life I've been a warrior and now I'm a mother. It is not in my plans to return to Ecuador because I already have a life here. This country is already mine. The immediate plan would be to keep going, to continue fighting. I'm scared, we're scared because we would be left with the uncertainty of being deported."
"I do not know what I would do in a country I don't remember"
"The truth is that I do not know what I would do in Mexico, I do not know what I would do in a country I don't remember, I only remember being in my grandmother's house and nothing more. Before DACA I had no hope of continuing to study. I left secondary school because I did not have papers and because my family told me that I was wasting my time. And also from all the rumors that they would deport you the day of your graduation, that ICE would come. DACA gave me the opportunity to get my high school diploma and find a job that I really like as a social worker, helping our low-income community and listening to their stories. I'm going to start studying to be a dental assistant. Maybe DACA is not an immigration status, but it gave us the opportunity to see what life can be."