Eliminating the DACA program would put participants’ lives ‘on hold’

Two upcoming local events will focus on young people and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program:

* “Dreamers Deferred: The Effect of DACA’s Elimination on Individuals, Families and Communities,” 6:30 p.m. Monday, Room 35-A in the Liberal Arts Building at IPFW, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E. This is a forum open to both the campus and Fort Wayne communities.

* A conference Friday for area male Hispanic high school students will include a live video conference interview with Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, who is a national DACA expert. The student conference, which is organized by the local Latinos Count organization, will take place at the Student Life Center at Ivy Tech Community College’s North Campus off St. Joe Road.

The program has allowed young people to pursue dreams of a better life.

by Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel

Saturday, September 16, 2017 12:01 am

If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is eliminated without a replacement program, “my life literally will be on hold,” said Karina Vasquez-Garcia, a Fort Wayne young woman participating in the program.

Vasquez-Garcia, 20, will lose her driver’s license, which she needs to commute to college at Manchester University in North Manchester. She also will lose her scholarships and the ability to work.

The impact of eliminating the program will be discussed during a campus and community forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Room 35-A in the Liberal Arts Building at IPFW, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

The DACA program currently allows about 800,000 young people who were brought into the United States illegally to remain in this country and to attend school and work by applying for two-year, renewable work permits.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 the Trump administration will rescind the DACA program March 5, which gives the U.S. Congress time to write new laws concerning DACA participants if they want. People whose DACA enrollment expires during the next six months can apply for renewal by Oct. 5.

Vasquez-Garcia was age 9 when her mother brought her and her younger sister into the United States from Mexico without going through the official immigration process, she said.

“I was just a kid,” she added, “so I couldn’t say no to my Mom.”

Her mother had come to the United States five or six years earlier to try to make a living after their father left the family, Vasquez-Garcia said. Economic opportunities in Mexico were very limited, and her mother also wanted her daughters to have a chance to go to college.

Her mother, who operates her own cleaning business, is a legal U.S. resident now and is going through the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, as is Vasquez-Garcia’s stepfather.

Vasquez-Garcia, who now is a junior studying biochemistry at Manchester University, said she was in high school when she realized she may not be able to attend college or to get a driver’s license because of her undocumented immigration status.

When the administration of former President Barack Obama launched the DACA program in 2012, she felt like she had “a little breather” and would be able to get a driver’s license and to pursue her dreams of going to college and becoming a doctor.

Since she left Mexico, Vasquez-Garcia said she has been back once — and only for a week — to see her biological father when he became very ill. If she is deported there, she said she doesn’t know how to live in Mexico or if she could attend college.

She supports keeping the DACA program in place, but offering participants a way to earn U.S. citizenship would be even better, she said.

“I would love a path to citizenship to the country I call my own,” she said.

The Dream Act of 2017, which has been proposed in the U.S. Congress, would provide that path.

During the national debate about DACA, Vasquez-Garcia said she has received a lot of support and encouragement from Manchester University and from people who know she is in the DACA program. She also believes some people have misperceptions about the program.

“I feel the thing people believe is we are taking money from them, and we are not,” she said.

For example, she has to pay for all of her college costs with money and scholarships, she said. In addition to attending school, she also works at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and as a peer tutor in medical terminology at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne.

All DACA participants also must pass a criminal background check before being approved for the program, Vasquez-Garcia added.

“The people in DACA,” she said, “want to work hard and make their dreams come true.”