When Ximena Zamora was a junior in high school, her teacher suggested a summer internship at a law firm. While filling out the application, Zamora stopped before the question: “What is your social security number?”
Zamora, who is an undocumented immigrant, does not have one. The next day, she told her teacher that she couldn’t take the opportunity. “It was the first time that the extent of [not having DACA relief] really sank, “Zamora, 18, told ELLE.com.” I was so upset. ”
The United States is the only house Zamora knows of. She was born in Puebla, Mexico, and came to New York City with her family when she was two years old. As she prepared to apply for the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in 2017 the Trump administration abruptly terminated it, leaving her unable to obtain a work permit or a social Security number. “The internship,” Zamora said, “is just the first of many things I’ll have to miss if we don’t. [fully reinstate] DACA now. ”
Now, in an election year, DACA hopefuls like Zamora are wondering what the results of the presidential race will mean for their future.
In 2012, Barack Obama signed an executive order providing a temporary stay on the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Thanks to the DACA, these immigrants were also able to obtain a driver’s license and work permits, and to pursue higher education with financial assistance. When Trump was elected five years later, he attempted to dismantle the program – a decision blocked by the Supreme Court in June.
It looked like a victory for Zamora, who was about to apply for DACA for the second time. But his excitement was short-lived. Despite the ruling, young undocumented immigrants continue to be turned away, even as hundreds of thousands remain eligible. Some applicants, like Zamora, never got a chance to submit their documents in the first place. Others, having turned 15, are now reaching the minimum age of eligibility.
The Trump administration’s stance on DACA was reinforced this summer when Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf issued a memorandum 41 days after the Supreme Court ruling banning first-time candidates from applying . It also reduced renewals for current recipients from two years to one year, essentially doubling the application fee.
Zamora is one of nine New Yorkers eligible for DACA challenge Wolf’s changes in Federal Court. Their joint complaint, filed Aug. 28 and reviewed by ELLE.com, is an amendment to a court case previously filed after Trump attempted to terminate the DACA in 2017. Represented by the National Immigration Law Center, Make the Road New York, and the Yale Law School Workers and Immigrant Advocacy Clinic, Zamora and the other plaintiffs want the government to process new DACA applications and revert to biennial renewals.
“I was worried at first to speak and put my name in there [out of fear of deportation]”Zamora said.” But thousands of children are in the same situation as me, so I needed to help. “
The DACA has granted work authorization and temporary aid against deportation to 643,560 immigrants since its promulgation. According to a study published by Harvard professor Roberto Gonzales, who has chronicled the effects of DACA for eight years, beneficiaries feel more secure in their identities and are better able to achieve financial independence.
In his memo, Wolf noted the positive impacts DACA recipients can have on society, including in the recent struggle to contain the coronavirus, but justified the rejection of new applicants due to a lack of “interest. of trust ”of current beneficiaries. He wrote that “whatever the merits of these asserted trust interests in maintaining the DACA policy, they are drastically reduced, if not entirely absent, with regard to foreigners who have never before received a deferred action in accordance with to politics.
Zamora doesn’t see it that way. She graduated from high school last year and was accepted into Baruch College in New York City to study accounting and criminology. If the changes to DACA stay in place, Zamora says she won’t be able to find a job to help offset costs like her textbooks. “I study hard, I have goals and plans,” she says. “I’m not trying to cause harm. I’m just looking to have the opportunity that the United States is supposed to give me.”
At present, the fate of DACA is precarious. While Trump claimed a “great love” for dreamers ahead of a White House meeting on tax reform in 2017, the president recently called “many” DACA beneficiaries “hardened criminals.”
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Trump has made his strong stance on immigration a central platform in his re-election campaign. In July, he reportedly informed Telemundo of a plan to “take care” of the DACA by signing a “big” immigration bill. “We are working on the legal complexities at the moment, but I will be signing a very important immigration bill in the form of an executive order, which the Supreme Court now, due to the DACA ruling, has given me. given the power to do so. Trump said. A White House spokesperson later clarified that the president “is working on an executive order to establish a merit-based immigration system to further protect American workers” which could “include citizenship, with strong border security and permanent reforms based on merit.
In contrast, Biden promised in the last presidential debate to reestablish the DACA within the first 100 days of his presidency by “sending[ing] in the United States Congress, a gateway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented migrants. And all these so-called dreamers, these DACA kids, they’re going to be legally certified again, so they can stay in this country and get on the path to citizenship.
It might be the most important election in Zamora’s life, but she doesn’t have a say. Instead, she relies on her registered friends and family to make a difference at the polls.
“This is something that needs to be fixed now,” Zamora said. “It puts many lives on hold and prevents us from achieving our goals and dreams.”
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