Fear, joy, anxiety: Bay Area Dreamers open up about DACA, how it has changed their lives

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to let DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) stand was a welcome reprieve for recipients of the program, known as Dreamers.

The program was established by an executive order in 2012 by then President Barack Obama.

While the 5-4 decision limited its ruling to the way the Trump administration tried to end the program, it did not rule on the legality of DACA. That means the lives of nearly 700,000 dreamers remains in limbo unless Congress can find a path to legalization.

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What is certain is how DACA has impacted the lives of Dreamers.

"The first time I got my DACA card I was texting all my friends. I was able to get my driver's license and help my family out," said Marelyn, who was brought to the United States in 1995 when she was ten years old.



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Marelyn was able to attend San Jose State University where she got a degree in sociology. She is now a part of the New Americans Fellowship, a program run by Santa Clara County that gives Dreamers work experience in local government.

"Our fellows spend the 10 weeks focusing on research and policy and data analysis," said Kati Robles, a senior management analyst who runs the program for the Office of Immigrant Relations.

The program was created by County Supervisor Dave Cortese in 2016 as the Trump administration began efforts to rescind the program. Participants are either college students or recent graduates.

Over the summer, they will be working with several county departments, including the Emergency Operations Center, the District Attorney's Office and the Juvenile Probation Department.

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"These opportunities are really amazing for our fellows, but also for our county departments because we get to learn from them how we are doing as a county and how we are able to message the vulnerable populations and the communities that they come from," said Robles.

Karla, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, was a fellow last year working in the Office of Women's Policy. She researched ways of engaging nontraditional voting communities.

"Right now there is the idea of the perfect immigrant student. We also need to advocate for everyone. We need an actual road to citizenship," said Karla, who was brought to the United States as a one-year-old.

The program also gives the fellows resources on starting their own business in case DACA is revoked and they can no longer work legally in the United States.

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"We want to make sure our hard work is also treated the same as everyone else's hard work here. The uncertainty is hard for everyone," said Lizeth, a 2020 fellow.

The Supreme Court ruling means DACA will remain in place, but without immigration reform approved by Congress, the lives of Dreamers will continue to be uncertain.

For more information on the New Americans Fellowship, visit the County of Santa Clara Office of Immigrant Relations website.
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