Just a few months ago, Geovanny Reyes was making plans to buy a house. Now, he’s begun to think about what his family will do if he’s deported.
Reyes, a 35-year-old father-of-five, is awaiting news about the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which provides work permits and protection from deportation to some 800,000 young immigrants. Reyes came to the United States from Ecuador when he was 12, and has been a beneficiary of DACA since 2012, when President Barack Obama signed an executive order creating the program.
Now under pressure, Trump is set to make a decision about DACA’s future in the coming days; 10 Republican attorneys general and a Republican governor have said they will sue the Trump administration over the program’s constitutionality if it isn’t ended by early next week.
As a result, rumors have swirled that President Trump is planning to halt the benefit.
“We’re at the edge right now, pretty anxious to see what’s gonna happen,” said Reyes, who works at a manufacturing company outside Atlanta. “I have a big family, and I have known my wife since high school. My family depends on me. I am thinking about this every day. I try to function normally at work but it’s hard.”
Univision News has been unable to verify rumors that the administration is planning to end the program.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have confirmed that President Trump is “evaluating” DACA after requesting reports from immigration officials and DHS in order to make a decision before the September 5 deadline.
Sources tell Univision that the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, is critical of the program.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also considers the program unconstitutional, and according to some sources has said he would not defend it in court.
The legal fight is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who argues that Obama overstepped his constitutional authority in granting "amnesty" to the so-called Dreamers -- undocumented youth who were brought by their parents to the United States before they turned 16.
That legal argument, made in the same court where Paxton is threatening to sue, helped paralyze Obama's program to expand deportation protection to the parents of U.S.-born children, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), in 2015.
Activists say that is foreboding. "The threat of ending DACA means that detention and deportation could be the ultimate fate of 800,000 dreamers across the country,” said Korina Iribe, the Advocacy Director of Undocumented Students for Education Equity.
After years spent living in the shadows, DACA enabled qualifying young immigrants to get driver’s licenses, study, obtain better jobs and use the banking system.
Gabriel Morales, a DACA recipient in Modesto, California, says he dreamed of “getting ahead” his entire life, but felt trapped until DACA came along. He started a small trucking company two years ago.
“I was able to get my license, my truck, a down payment and loans. And of course all the schooling to get my commercial license,” said Morales, 33, who previously worked in retail jobs. His parents brought him to the U.S. from Mexico when he was six.
“It has just been nice feeling normal once in my life … to blend in a little bit better," he said. "Making such an investment isn’t something you just do everyday. I feel they gave me wings and now that I’m trying to fly, they’re gonna cut them off.”
Trump has made conflicting statements about DACA. During his presidential campaign, candidate Trump said he would immediately end the program once in office and deport the Dreamers. But he later signaled a reversal on that pledge. In mid-February during a press conference, Trump vowed to “deal with DACA with heart” and stressed that the issue is “very, very difficult.”
Amid fears that the administration would do away with DACA, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introduced legislation in recent months to protect young Dreamers.
But passing legislation in Congress to protect undocumented youth has long been an elusive goal, with a number of failed attempts since 2001. Democrats know it’s an especially uphill battle in a Republican-controlled Congress.
“Our first goal, to be explicit, is that the Trump administration preserve DACA,” Frank Sharry, president of the national immigration reform group America’s Voice, told Univision last month.
On Friday, Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) wrote on Twitter that Trump should remember that he said he would treat DACA with compassion.
"It's time to prove it," Schumer wrote.
Many with DACA fear that their personal information, including their addresses, which they provided to authorities in order to become eligible for the program, could be used to pick them up and deport them if the program is canceled.
According to Phoenix immigration lawyer Ezequiel Hernández, ICE would have to request "all the files of those protected by the program" from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which runs the program. That would be unprecedented.
"We will take legal action to combat that," Hernández said. "We will not allow USCIS to submit our data to ICE for the government to initiate deportation proceedings."
Reyes said the end of DACA would mean he would return to the shadows.
"I feel like it would just be a matter of waiting for them to ring my doorbell, and just living until that day happens,” he said. “That’s not a way to live - not be able to do anything or even go outside.”
"I love this country, it has done so much for me," he added. "I don't know any other place but here."