Tania Hernandez Orozco has been dreading Sept. 5 for months.
“I marked it on my calendar, but I’ve tried not to think about it too hard,” the 19-year-old said. “I have no control over what happens, and that might be the scariest part.”
A freshman at Delaware State University, she is among 800,000 people who could face deportation if President Donald Trump phases out a federal program that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
Those young people are currently protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created in 2012 by the Obama administration.
Many Republicans are vehemently opposed to DACA and characterize the program as an overreach by the former president. GOP leaders have told Trump they plan to sue if he does not announce an end to the program by Tuesday.
“We are a country of immigration but, more importantly, legal immigration,” said Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett, who chaired Trump’s Delaware campaign. “These undocumented children are a big financial burden on taxpayers, and I think there are better ways to address these kids.”
The DACA program does not offer blanket protections and is not a path to citizenship. People must apply to be covered by the program, which is available only to those who came to the U.S. before 2007 and were 15 or younger when they arrived. DACA recipients also must have a clean criminal record.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 1.9 million young immigrants in the U.S. eligible to apply for DACA. But many have not sought the program’s protections, fearing what might happen if they reveal themselves to the federal government.
“My family and I thought about it a lot, did the research and decided it was better than the alternative,” said 6, a nursing student at DSU whose mother brought her to the U.S. from Brazil when she was 4.
“DACA opened everything up for me because it meant I could find a job and get a driver’s license without worrying about going to jail or worse,” she said. “But it was scary to announce myself to the government, and it still is considering what’s happening now.”
Fernanda Lima and Hernandez Orozco are among about 75 DACA recipients at DSU thanks to a full scholarship provided by TheDream.US, a privately endowed fund started by Don Graham, the former publisher of the Washington Post, and a small group of philanthropists. DSU is one of only five universities and colleges in the nation to partner with the group.
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