AUSTIN, Texas - Recently graduated from Harvard and in his first year at the University of Texas law school, dreamer Enrique Ramírez said Tuesday that the end of DACA does not mean the end of his American dream.
“We’re not going to lose hope,” he said Tuesday while leaving class, just minutes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced DACA would be rescinded.
Like hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, Enrique has anxiously followed rumors and reports about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created in 2012 by then president Barack Obama to prevent deportation for young undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. by their parents before they turned 16.
On Tuesday, Sessions announced the future of DACA: as of Tuesday, the government will not process new applications for the program. It will stop renewing DACA permits as of March 5, 2018, effectively terminating the program.
For Enrique, whose DACA permit expires in September of next year, the announcement complicates his plans to work while he finishes his law degree.
It could also make it hard for him to keep studying: “I’m thinking that maybe I won’t be able to work next year, even though I have my undergraduate degree from Harvard and I’m working towards a law degree,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to have a real job, and I’m thinking about how it may impact the scholarships that I have that require a social security number.”
And yet he remains optimistic: “We have faith in the possibility that there will be a more permanent solution,” he said.
Now 23, Enrique has lived in the United States for more than two decades, since his parents brought him to Texas from Mexico when he was two.
His brother Daniel, who is 22, was one-year-old when the family arrived.
Both were raised in the city of Dickinson, southeast of Houston, Texas. They both studied philosophy: Enrique at Harvard and Daniel at Middlebury College in Vermont, one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation. The two brothers received DACA in 2012 and both graduated in May.
For Daniel, DACA had been a way to work while at school, first washing dishes in the cafeteria, then as a mentor and finally assisting a professor who is writing a book on philosophy.
That changed last semester when his permit expired. It has yet to be renewed by the Department of Homeland Security. "It was a total change when my DACA expired as to the type of work I was doing. I was no longer working with computers, with bibliographies, with authors. I had to go and work on dairy farms. It was fun because I was with a lot of people like me and there was a sense of community that way. But it's difficult. The work is very hard," he recalls.
Daniel was disappointed by Tuesday’s news, but he acknowledged the writing was on the wall. "This is what was expected of a president like Trump. All discussion always becomes political. And so, that’s our life as immigrants: we are a chip in the game, but in reality we are building this country, this is our country," he said.
He added, "Thank God, I have a lot of friends here in Austin. I studied and I have confidence in myself, in my ability to create a happy life for myself. The uncertainty now is no different than the last five years, it’s the same anxiety."
The young man believes that Congress could approve a solution for Dreamers that allows them to leave and enter the country freely and obtain other benefits that legal residents have.
Even so, he says he would be happy with a solution identical to the program that Trump eliminated Tuesday: "It seems to me that DACA is asking for very little, it is asking for almost nothing. It is not residency, it’s not citizenship. It's enough for me to help my family. That’s all I need."