DREAMer Reacts To Trump's Decision To End DACA Program

Sep 5, 2017
Originally published on September 18, 2017 2:27 pm

A group of conservative attorneys general has forced the Trump administration's hand on a program known as DACA. It lets people who came to the U.S. illegally as children stay and work here. NPR's Ari Shapiro checks back in with DACA recipient Juan de la Rosa.

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Now we're going to talk with a young man who has legal protection under DACA. I first met Juan de la Rosa in January just before Donald Trump's inauguration. At that point, de la Rosa was about to start his last semester at Virginia Tech. And as a DACA recipient, he could pay in-state tuition.

JUAN DE LA ROSA: We have to be able to see undocumented individuals not by their status, but by the contributions that they've been willing to make to this country.

SHAPIRO: Now he has graduated and he's working as an admissions adviser for Virginia Tech, a job that he has thanks to his work permit under DACA. Juan de la Rosa, it's good to talk to you again. Thanks for joining us.

DE LA ROSA: Oh, it's my pleasure.

SHAPIRO: What was your reaction today when you heard the attorney general say that DACA is going to be canceled?

DE LA ROSA: It wasn't something that caught me off guard. It wasn't something that I wasn't expecting. I think I just felt jaded at this point from all that had been going on in the last week.

SHAPIRO: And so what are you thinking right now?

DE LA ROSA: Right now I don't think that I feel, like, the full impact or the full brunt of this announcement yet. I think I just have to begin preparing for March 5 being the new deadline. And I think, like, six months from now normalcy will be very different than what it is now.

SHAPIRO: So March 5 is the day that the program ends if Congress does not act. And have you thought about what your life will look like after that day?

DE LA ROSA: I definitely have. And I think I do not know how to prepare for it at all. So one of the things that over the last couple of months I've been hearing a lot from undocumented youth all over the country is that DACA isn't something that has always been around, that people have lived and people have thrived without DACA. But I think I'm of an age cohort within the undocumented community that doesn't necessarily know that.

So I got DACA when I was in high school. I didn't really have to face the full brunt of, like, my status. I didn't have to face full illegality when I was growing up. And all throughout college, even, you know, a little bit beyond college now, I've always had that sort of DACA protection. And so I don't know what it's like to be an adult that doesn't have any sort of status. And so I think making that adjustment is going to be very difficult for me.

SHAPIRO: There are people marching in the streets today. Have you thought about whether your tendency is to march or to hide or to run or to fight?

DE LA ROSA: I, over the last couple of years, have always been one to be out on the streets. But in making this new transition to a new job here at Virginia Tech, my tendency was to sort of ignore the problem, hoping it would go away. And at this point I can't ignore it anymore. And so while I may have needed time to sort of process and to understand, I know that my role is going to be to be out in the streets and to be using my voice just like the individuals who fought for DACA five years ago or, you know, six years ago did for me.

SHAPIRO: I know that applying for this program requires you to turn over a lot of personal information. Are you concerned that if the program goes away that personal information could be used against you or your family members?

DE LA ROSA: Absolutely. I don't think that I'm so much worried about myself. I think more than anything I'm worried about the people I may have put at risk for being so open about my status. It's...

SHAPIRO: Do you mean like your parents?

DE LA ROSA: Right. So my parents particularly - so, you know, USCIS has my information, which in a lot of ways is the same information for my parents.

SHAPIRO: That's the Customs and Immigration Service...

DE LA ROSA: Right.

SHAPIRO: ...Just for people who don't know it. Yeah.

DE LA ROSA: And so they have all of my information, which is also my parents' information. And so I don't worry about myself because I think that I'm able to understand sort of everything that is going on. But I worry about the safety and security of people like my parents and my siblings who may not have status.

SHAPIRO: Have you had that conversation with your parents and siblings today?

DE LA ROSA: Not yet. So I had a conversation after the announcement with my mother. So I was able to walk her through exactly what the announcement meant. But again, it was the same conversation where it wasn't necessarily anything that's taking into effect yet. It was just, you know, this is a new deadline for us.

SHAPIRO: When we talked in January, you told me that you as a student proudly wore a T-shirt that says, I am undocumented. Do you still wear that T-shirt?

DE LA ROSA: I do still wear that T-shirt. I think that I would still say I'm undocumented and a little bit afraid. But it's fear that I'll be able to get over because I know I have to be able to do so.

SHAPIRO: Juan de la Rosa is 21 years old and lives in Blacksburg, Va. Juan, it's great to talk to you again. Thanks for making the time today.

DE LA ROSA: Oh, my pleasure.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION:In this report, USCIS is referred to as U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. In fact, the agency is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.