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Sep 08 2017
by Melissa Cordell

A DACA Recipient Shares What It Means to Be a Dreamer in Today’s America

By Melissa Cordell - Sep 08 2017
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Chances are, you probably know a person covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood ArrivalsAlmost 800,000 young people are covered by the program, which requires routine renewal. They have grown up in the United States and come to call it home. For some, America is all that they know. 

DACA recipients must hold a clean criminal record and along with age and residency guidelines be enrolled in school currently, have graduated from high school or obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces.

Olivia* came to America when she was three years old under DACA and is now enrolled full-time in a four year university. She shared with Fresh U a bit about what this program means to her and how it affects her future. 

"There's many misconceptions by people about Dreamers," she said. "For example, they think we are criminals, when in order to even have DACA we need to have a clean record. Second is that they think we don't pay taxes. I am currently employed, and I get deducted almost $200 every paycheck for taxes. Third, [people think] that DACA students are stealing opportunities from citizens when in fact, that's not true. We work hard for everything we get, and since we're DACA students, we have to work 2x [twice] as hard due to limited resources."

Dreamers bear the financial burden of creating their life in America while furthering their education. Only 21 states allow students covered by DACA to have in-state tuition. Olivia was able to avoid tuition costs, but that burden is an unescapable truth for many.

"Since I was little, I worked hard academically because I knew that in order to have a better life I needed an education," she said. "My hard work paid off, and I graduated valedictorian of my class and am now in college on a full tuition scholarship. All because of MY hard work. They need to stop blaming us for the short comings of other people."

Olivia's hard work doesn't stop there. She still works harder than many students to get the most of the "American Dream," but is denied opportunities that she is more than qualified for because of her DACA status. 

"I think the hardest thing I've faced was throughout high school and even now. Although DACA opens up so many opportunities, and I'm thankful for them, there are still so many we can't get," she said. "For example, as a DACA student it was very hard applying for scholarships. It was frustrating having to go through the requirements and meeting each one except for 'must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.'"

Olivia's challenges didn't end in high school.

"And [the] same thing applies now that I'm in college," she said. "As a computer science major, it is crucial to do internships in order to put what you learn in the classroom into practice. But just like when I was applying to scholarships, I met every requirement for an internship except for 'must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.'" 

Looking toward the future, Olivia is scared, but hopeful.

"Thanks to DACA, all the hard work throughout my life has paid off, and I've been able to attend college and do what my parents brought me to this country for," she said. "And with Trump's decision, all of that can be worthless since even if I get a degree, I won't be able to work. The thought of that happening upsets me because then what was the point of all my hard work? But then I think about it and even without DACA, I'll continue to work hard and find the best possible way to move forward. Because that's how mi gente [my people] are. We can get put down so many times, but we'll come back twice as hard."

*Editor's note: Name has been changed to protect an identity.

Lead Image Credit: Brian Foust via Flickr Creative Commons

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Melissa Cordell - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Melissa Cordell is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Political Science and Peace, War & Defense, with a Women's Studies minor. She loves working on campaigns, activism and writing. Follow her on Instagram @meldelissacor and Twitter @MM_Cordell!

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