I fear that I may no longer look forward to a future in the United States, my home and the only country I have ever known. I immigrated to the state of Rhode Island at the age of 10 months, through no choice of my own and I have no recollection of Portugal, my country of birth.
I’m afraid of what will happen now that President Donald Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Session have announced the decision to abandon the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) - an Obama-era executive order allowing me and many other undocumented migrants like me to stay in the country lawfully.
DACA was implemented in 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and currently protects about 800,000 undocumented people. DACA grants a two-year renewable period of work authorisation and a reprieve from deportation by recognising the recipient as a non-priority for removal. Immigrants that are eligible – dubbed the Dreamers - include those who have been present since at least June 2007 and were 16 or younger at the time they entered into the United States.
The vast majority of undocumented immigrants have no viable pathway to citizenship, unless they marry a US citizen, can argue that they are a refugee in need of asylum, or find an employer willing to sponsor them for a green card. This is further complicated by the fact many DACA recipients have accrued unlawful presence or entered without inspection, making it almost impossible to adjust their US residency without undergoing consular processing abroad and being subject to a 10-year ban from entering the country.
I have been able to openly and lawfully work, study, and contribute to my community ever since I was granted deferred status under DACA three years ago. Prior to this, my family and I had struggled for many years to pursue the American Dream, with no available path to citizenship. In spite of this, I am proud of what we’ve achieved: iconic American milestones such as purchasing a family car and moving into our own family home.
With the new decision, I now risk being forced back into the shadows of undocumented status, unless the US Congress revises the federal immigration law to permanently protect DACA recipients.
Living in the shadows means declining legitimate job offers, as I would be unable to work lawfully. Undocumented people that work ‘off the books’ risk employer exploitation such as wage theft. My father was a victim of this: he found a job in Maryland soon after arrival, but after two weeks of work, he was laid off without pay and no legal recourse. Like many undocumented people, I fear that I may have to move from job to job, without a sense of knowing where I will be working next week or even whether I will be paid.
The decision to terminate the DACA programme was ostensibly propelled by threats from Texas and eight other states to sue the Trump administration if it did not act to end it by September 5. The attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, intended to amend an existing case before the court, Texas v United States. In 2015, the case resulted in Texas Judge Andrew Hanen issuing an injunction against a similar programme called DAPA. Although it was never implemented, it would have also considered recipients as a non-priority for removal.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘I’m a DACA recipient and this is what will happen to me’.