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US Immigrants Who Arrived as Children Remain Stuck in Impermanence

On the 10-Year Anniversary of DACA, My Future Hangs in the Balance

DACA recipients hold a rally in New York on August 17, 2021 to demand citizenship now for all undocumented immigrants. © 2021 Lev Radin/Sipa via AP Images

Ten years ago, on June 15, 2012, former US President Barack Obama issued an executive order establishing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), a program to give young immigrants like me temporary work authorization and protection from deportation.

I was 10 years old when my family immigrated to the US from the United Arab Emirates, seeking medical care for my older sister who was born with a life-threatening brain condition. While my sister was receiving medical care, my family lost our immigration status. My parents made the courageous decision to overstay their visas to fight for my sister’s life. She is still alive today as a result.

DACA protections made it possible for me to become a registered nurse, volunteer with the NYC Medical Reserve Corps on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic, become an attorney, and work as the Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch.

While DACA has been a lifeline for me and hundreds of thousands of other hardworking young people, it has been challenging to plan my life in two-year increments. DACA requires that I apply for work authorization and protection from deportation every two years. Earlier this year my fellowship was at risk because my status was set to expire. Former President Donald Trump’s termination of the program and subsequent litigation have threatened to rip this protection from me, jeopardizing my future.

DACA was always intended to be a “temporary stop-gap measure” according to President Obama, who said, “This is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix.” However, despite widespread support for better protections, Congress has failed to take action in the last decade, leaving the 800,000 of us who have DACA protections in limbo and tens of thousands more vulnerable to deportation. After a Texas judge ruled that DACA was unlawful last July, the federal government ceased processing new applications from DACA-eligible immigrants and those whose DACA expired more than a year ago.

This should not continue.

I and many others are gathering today in rallies across the country to call on Congress to pass legislation to transform the country’s outdated and inhumane immigration system and provide deeply rooted immigrants with a pathway to citizenship. Our lives, and my future, depend on it.

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