FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A Florida Gulf Coast University student and DACA recipient opened up, Friday, about what elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could mean for herself and the Southwest Florida community.
She spoke to 4 In Your Corner on the condition of anonymity. The student was brought the the United States at just four months old from Mexico. It wasn't until she reached the third grade, that she ever thought about her legal status in the country as an issue. "I had no clue. All I knew is my parents would tell me 'don't tell anybody where you were born,'" she explained.
In middle school, the student was able to skip a grade. This allowed her to graduate early, and earn an Associates degree. At 19 years old, she's working toward Bachelors degrees in Political Science and Economics at FGCU. She participates in various campus organizations dedicated to helping immigrant students.
One of her proudest accomplishments was participating in the Harvard Model United Nations conference. "That was super awesome! I got to meet so many Ivy League students. I was so excited because I always had this idea that Ivy League students are geniuses, so different than me, they have to have something I don't have," she exclaimed. "Once you meet them, you talk to them and learn about their personal stories, and how they got to where they are, they're just human beings."
With DACA up in the air, the 19-year-old and nearly 800,000 others are uncertain about their futures. Many of the 'Dreamers' are high school and college students. The DACA recipient described fear associated with being outed as undocumented, showing us pages of news articles about immigration activists and community members who were swiftly deported recently. Some were separated from their families faster than they could take action. "To have that fear paralyze you..it's devastating to say the least," she said.
For someone like her, who came to the U.S. as an infant, being deported would mean going to a country she does not know. She can, thankfully, speak, read and write Spanish. However, she explained some Dreamers don't even know their country's native language fluently enough to get by. "I have a set of skills and tools to make it over here, but not over there."
The student's message to law makers is to not only think about the negative impacts on the recipients themselves, but to think about how a mass deportation of Dreamers, (who go to school, pay taxes, and contribute to society,) would affect the local community.
She fears if DACA is eliminated, some of her peers will be too scared to drive to school and continue their education, or call police to report a crime. "You have to go out, you have to get groceries, go to work, make life happen. So whenever these things paralyze people with fear, you stop people from spending money. You kind of stunt your economy a little bit," she said.
She tells us she's thankful for our congress members' public service. She understands the job is stressful. However, the DACA recipient wants lawmakers to realize the kind of power they have. Equally, she wants them to realize the power of the communities they serve. "If you're really going to preach serving America first, putting America first, making America great again, you have to realize that your self interest, your benefit, taking care of yourself, is connected to the well-being of your neighbor."