Op-Ed

‘Despite conservatives’ assault on DACA, I believe justice will prevail’

People in Los Angeles march in support of DACA and the undocumented DREAMers that it protects from deportation.
People in Los Angeles march in support of DACA and the undocumented DREAMers that it protects from deportation. Getty Images

Almost a year ago, President Trump tried to put a deadline on the life I’ve built in America. Except that several courts have overruled his decision, leaving me and about 800,000 others in limbo. I try to live a normal life, yet feel paralyzed by the political games and legal battles that ultimately will decide whether I can remain in the United States while we wait for Congress to create a path to citizenship, whenever that may come.

I am a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which gives young adults like myself, brought to the United States as children without papers, temporary protection from deportation.

I am also one of 22 DACA recipients represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which became an intervener in a lawsuit led by the state of Texas against the administration, which says that DACA is unconstitutional and illegal. The states that are suing are doing Trump’s bidding, as other courts outside of Texas already have stopped the president from ending DACA. The court fights will take a long time to settle because of the conflicting decisions.

But I would not have to be in court if Trump would end his campaign of terror against immigrants, which includes a ramped-up deportation force. Congress also could follow public opinion and pass common-sense immigration reform. Those are big asks, but my hope is that voters show their support for DREAMers by voting in November and choosing an agenda of solutions, not of fear.

The chance for a better life for my family in the United States overcame my parents’ fears of leaving Mexico. When DACA began in June 2012, the opportunity that my parents had hoped for their children opened up.

With my Social Security number and work permit, I was able to get a job and a driver’s license without fear of being detained or deported.

For five years, DACA has offered recipients like me temporary relief from fear of deportation. We can proclaim that we are Americans in every way except for a missing document that gives us permanent status in this country. Though we must renew our DACA status every two years, we are able to engage freely in our communities, as I have in my job as a social justice advocate with the faith community.

For years, advocates have lobbied to pass legislation such as the Dream Act, which provides a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers , but these efforts have failed. DACA offers temporary relief, but it is not enough. Trump upended our dreams when he decided to end DACA for no good reason except to carry out his assault on immigrants, including children.

But I believe my American life will survive for three key reasons. First, DACA is being kept alive by the courts. Second, while conservatives want to kill it, the public will not let them end a policy that works for the benefit of our nation.

Finally, I also believe that our nation’s promise of democracy extends to everyone. I am an American in every way except for a missing piece of paper, but that promise includes me.

Nanci Palacios is a congregation organizer in Orlando with Faith In Florida. She was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and came to the United States when she was 6.

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