PHOENIX - As the Trump administration prepares to put an end to the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program most commonly known as "DACA;" a program that has allowed nearly 1 million people to lawfully live and work in the United States, one of the first DREAMers is reflecting on the journey as she continues to fight.
“Everything we have gotten we have earned it,” said Dulce Matuz.
Now a U.S. citizen, 10 years ago she was a DREAMer, fighting for the right to live and work in the United States.
“The DACA program brought 800,000 DREAMERers out of the shadows who are integrated into society, into the economy, and it’s gonna be a great loss,” added Matuz.
Matuz says it wasn’t until she graduated from college that she was aware of what it meant to be undocumented. She had her electrical engineering degree, but no driver’s license, no work permit, or a way to make a living. So she chose to fight.
She became one of the most vocal proponents of the DREAM Act and the DACA program helping to make it a reality when President Obama used executive action to create the program in 2012. She says since President Trump announced last week he was considering ending the program, DREAMers have been anxious.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” she said.
While it brings uncertainty Matuz says one thing is certain, DREAMERs have more support than ever before.
“It’s gonna be an opportunity to come together, be more creative,” Matuz said.
So she’ll pick up where she started nearly 10 years ago and rally in front of ICE offices first thing tomorrow morning in anticipation of the president’s decision and calling on Congress to work on a solution.
“There’s a moral dilemma that we need to answer today with our immigration laws. They need to be updated and they need to be changed,” added Matuz.
Meanwhile, immigration attorneys in Arizona say they have been working long hours in the last week helping to process and file DACA petitions for clients before the program is ended.
Their advice to DREAMers worried about tomorrow’s decision? Ezequiel Hernandez, a Valley immigration attorney says don’t do anything until there is a clear directive from the White House. One of the scenarios that could play out tomorrow is the president could end the program and place all 800,000 recipients on notice to appear for deportation proceedings. They say that scenario would likely backlog immigration courts.
But they’re not concerned about mass deportations. Hernandez says Immigration and Customs Enforcement simply does not have the man power or resources to physically expel nearly a million DACA recipients from the country.
Immigration attorneys say they understand the program was never meant to be a long-term solution but believe the president should not repeal it until there is something to replace it with.
They’re hoping the president will provide some more clarity with his announcement tomorrow.
“There’s a lot of question marks. What if I file my work permit and it’s still pending? Am I OK with those six months? Am I OK until my work permit expires? What happens, and so I think until I know what happens please stay put,” said Hernandez.
Advocates and supporters say ending the program would have a negative impact on schools and businesses as well.
The Arizona economy could be out billions of dollars according to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.