For five anxious West Michigan “Dreamers,” the past two weeks only sharpened their vision of a future with two distinct outcomes. They are young workers and students from Mexico or El Salvador, with a common backstory: They were brought here illegally as children.
Their experiences echo more than 6,000 young people across the state with similar narratives.
Under option A, they remain legally free to pursue their dream of building a productive life in America under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
But under option B, the Obama-era program that shielded them from deportation expires – and they could be forced to return to a country they barely remember.
Bridge Magazine gathered the stories of the five Dreamers’ after the White House’s announcement that DACA would be rescinded in the absence of congressional action. In the weeks since, President Trump’s position on their fate has changed repeatedly, sometimes by the hour.
Daniel Caracheo, an 18-year-old pre-med student, said it was DACA that gave him the confidence to make long-term plans – to dream.
“Now,” he said, “I am back to thinking in days about what my next step will be.”
How many Michigan ‘Dreamers’
Michigan has about 6,400 so-called Dreamers seeking to stay in the U.S. Here’s how that compares with top states, California and Texas, and Midwest neighbors:
- California 222,795
- Texas 124,300
- Illinois 42,376
- Indiana 9,480
- Wisconsin 7,565
- Michigan 6,430
- Minnesota 6,255
- Ohio 4,442
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
On Sept. 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration would accept no new DACA applicants after that day. Recipients with a permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, could apply for a two-year renewal if they apply by Oct. 5.
It would effectively end a program launched by President Obama in 2012 by executive order to allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before age 16 ‒ and who lived here since 2007 ‒ to remain under a renewable two-year permit. There were nearly 800,000 U.S. immigrants with DACA permits as of March.
By statement and tweet, Trump has added confusion to this issue. He said in a 2016 campaign event he would “immediately terminate” the program. But after the Sessions announcement, Trump challenged Congress to legalize the program, tweeting, “If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”
He later tweeted that DACA immigrants “have nothing to worry about — No action!”
Now the president says he is working with Democrats to continue the program, perhaps tied to funding to bolster border security. House GOP Speaker Paul Ryan said there was no such agreement among Republicans.
All of which has left the five DACA permit holders bewildered, yet determined.
“The dream,” said Juan Palacios, 26, “is to get a goal for your life, for your family, for the things you dreamed about as a kid you could get by working hard and following the law and achieving that goal.”