DACA Might End Soon and I’m Not Ready

Photo: Kena Betancur/Corbis/Getty Images.
The year 2022 marked the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, most commonly referred to as DACA. Over the past decade, this policy has affected hundreds of thousands of immigrant lives — not just of the recipients, but our loved ones as well, and in more than one way. 
DACA, implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012, provides protection from deportation and offers work authorization, a driver’s license, and a social security number to some undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. These privileges are life-changing, granting us access to resources and opportunities previously unavailable to the undocumented community. 
Edwin Soto Saucedo, 30, lives in Los Angeles. Soto Saucedo has been a DACA recipient since 2013 and is currently in graduate school for an MBA with the support of grants and scholarships. Before becoming eligible for DACA, Soto Saucedo worked under the table and was paid less than minimum wage. “I went from a labor-intensive job to my first office job, got my first car, qualified for health insurance, and moved out on my own,” he tells Refinery29 Somos. “My life completely changed and I’m so grateful.”
Although DACA gives so many of us a new sense of safety and stability, the policy is extremely flawed. For one, it leaves out millions of undocumented immigrants who don’t qualify due to the arbitrary and restrictive requirements. For instance, to qualify for DACA, immigrants have to have entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and have either enrolled in school, graduated, obtained their GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran. Not everyone has the privilege of getting a higher education, and the age restrictions purposely leaves out our parents. DACA is also rooted in a “good” versus “bad” immigrant narrative that has been nothing but harmful. This misconception paints certain immigrants as productive members of society while the rest are labeled as criminals and unworthy of being in this country. 

"Although DACA gives so many of us a new sense of safety and stability, the policy is extremely flawed."

Jacqueline Delgadillo
From the beginning, many immigrants’ rights advocates and activists warned that DACA was not enough and far from a permanent solution. This became evident a couple of years ago when President Donald Trump was elected president, expressing his plans to rescind the policy. Moreover, the sense of safety and stability that those of us with DACA may have once felt has become more precarious as the policy continues to be under attack by those in political power.
As a policy associate at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), an organization dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants, Diana Pliego Padilla has been on the frontlines of this issue. A DACA recipient herself, her hope of stability around DACA has been knocked down on several occasions. A recent example: In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one of the 13 federal appellate courts, agreed with a federal judge in Texas that DACA is illegal. At this time, renewal and advance parole applications will continue to be processed, but any initial DACA application will not.
“The most recent decision by the Fifth Circuit in early October declared DACA as unlawful,” Pliego Padilla said. “It seems clear that DACA is coming to an end. On the legislative front, we are urging and have been urging Congress to deliver on their promises for a pathway to protection and citizenship — not just for DACA recipients but for immigrants at large.” 
On December 5, senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) drafted a bipartisan proposal that would give two million undocumented immigrants, including DACA recipients, a pathway to citizenship. However, the costs far outweigh the benefits. The deal would include at least $25 billion in increased funding toward U.S. Customs and Border Protection and would also extend Title 42, which the previous administration implemented arguing that it was necessary to deport migrants due to the public health crisis. Protection for DACA recipients shouldn’t come at the expense of those who are most vulnerable. 

“The end of DACA is frightening, and I don’t have the mental capacity to prepare for it.” 

Edwin Soto Saucedo
As for Soto Saucedo, he believes DACA won’t exist this time next year. “DACA has been the reality for the past 10 years, and coming up with a plan B is stressful, so I know that for my friends and me, we aren’t really thinking about it,” they shared. “The end of DACA is frightening, and I don’t have the mental capacity to prepare for it.” 
DACA recipients are not a one-size-fits-all monolith. Our intersectional identities mean that DACA created varying degrees of change. Just as the policy affected recipients in different ways, its end will also have a range of consequences, from financial hardship to mental and emotional distress to further marginalization.
A shared sentiment among DACA recipients is the constant anxiety over its uncertainty. Claudette Mestayer, LCSW, has been working with first- and second-generation immigrants since 2012. 
“Living with uncertainty is living with the constant anxiety of what’s going to happen next,” Mestayer said. “There’s a lot of intense inner turmoil that you live in when you don’t know what’s going to happen to you or your family.” 
Mestayer emphasized the importance of community care through uncertain times. Sitting with stress and not talking about it can be harmful, she added. Speaking about your experiences and your fears with people you trust is beneficial and essential to building community. Being undocumented is an overwhelming experience. Our feelings and worries are valid, and we are not alone. 

"Yes, we are resilient, but we’re tired of having to be."

“A big part of self care is community care and allowing yourself to receive it,” Mestayer said. “We need to normalize allowing people to express their fears, even if you don’t understand them personally or it’s not your own lived experience.”
For too long, the media has portrayed undocumented immigrants in a one-dimensional way. No, we are not victims. Yes, we are resilient, but we’re tired of having to be. Many of us are afraid, but we aren’t voiceless. 
“Community protects us,” Soto Saucedo says. “The reason we have DACA is because we advocate for ourselves. We are the ones pushing forward. There’s an opportunity here to continue pushing forward for the protection of the entire undocumented immigrant community, not just DACA recipients. It would be wonderful to see a world where borders don’t exist.
Regardless of one’s immigration status, it’s critical to stay informed and urge senators and representatives to take action. There’s no need to go to Washington, D.C. to organize — mobilizing locally is critical. Equally important is rest. 
“This is hard work for anybody, but especially when you are directly impacted,” Pliego Padilla said. “It can take a toll. I’ve learned over the years that you need to prioritize taking care of yourself and figuring out what that means for you. Joy is part of the revolution.” 

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