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The Countdown to Deportation Has Begun for DACA Parents

DACA recipients who are parents face an impossible choice: leave their child in the United States or take them to a land they've never even seen.

Today, October 5, is the final day to submit or renew work permits for a small fraction of DREAMers by way of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA. This window is for those whose permits expire between September 5 and March 5.  About 150,000 of the 800,000 people protected by DACA are eligible to renew their status. 

While many of the DREAMers and those protected under DACA are in their teens, a large fraction of them — about 200,000 — are parents who have children who are U.S. citizens. Some of these parents, no doubt, filed their applications for what they may fear is the last time. And the choice — the two paths of what to do if their DACA status expires or the program is rolled back — is a devastating one.

Either these parents will have to take their child with them to a country of which they are not a citizen and in which they weren’t born, or they will have to leave them behind if DACA is indeed rolled back. This could leave hundreds of thousands of innocent children orphaned from their parents and taken to detention centers. Some families with more than one child, or an older one, fear that their oldest may have to become guardians for their youngest.

DACA March

The looming threat of deportation makes life extraordinarily complicated. One single mother, Lorena Jofrey, works and lives as an insurance agent in Miami. She came to the United States when she was 10 years old and has a 6-year-old daughter of her own. “I told her, ‘They are trying to take away DACA from Mommy,” she told Vox. Other DACA recipients, especially those who have been in the United States since infancy, say they have taken to learning Spanish to prepare for the possibility of being deported.

While renewal is merely temporary, the process of renewing DACA status in the Trump era has proven to be difficult. Many can’t even afford the $495 application fee.

A DACA recipient in Texas stressed that he had been waiting for this moment for a while. “I mentally prepared myself for a few months now, after imagining a life without DACA, imagining a life without being able to work.” That activist — Samuel Cervantes — vows to fight the rollback and turn his anxiety into positive action.

Those who have their applications approved will be able to live in the United States for another 2 years.